Diocesan event “Continues the Walk” of truth and reconciliation

A "Continuing the Walk" diocesan Adult Faith Encounter event about truth and reconciliation was held April 22 at St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon. (Photos by Astrid Alas)

By Myron Rogal, Coordinator of Justice and Peace, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

On April 22, 2023, the Roman Catholic Diocesan presented Continuing the Walk at St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon. The day-long Adult Faith Encounter event – which included a particular focus on the TRC Calls to Action related to economic reconciliation  – drew some 50 participants from around the Catholic diocese as well as from other churches.

Participants were greeted with warm hospitality as they settled into their chairs for a rich and dynamic day.

The day began with smudging and a four-directions prayer led by Elders of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Saskatoon. Following the prayer, participants had the privilege of listening to the experiences and healing journey of residential school survivor Ann Lafleur.

Lafleur captured the complete attention of the room as she shared the pain experienced while attending a boarding school in Ile la Crosse and the redemptive healing that followed. Acknowledging the difficulty of speaking about her experience, Ann pointed out that survivors who are able to share their stories do so also representing those who cannot share yet, or never did.

Highlights on Lafleur’s journey was to serve as a First Nations delegate in a 2022 meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, as well as a recent trip to share her story at the United Nations in New York.

Speaker Randy Klassen, who serves as Indigenous Neighbour Coordinator with the Mennonite Central Committee of Saskatchewan, began by acknowledging Lafleur’s sharing.

Klassen then gave a thought-provoking presentation on Grounding our Reconciliation Work.  After praying and listening, participants entered into a time of lively sharing, reflecting on their own relationship with the land and what that means in terms of their responsibility to Indigenous peoples.

Klassen drew participants into compelling examples rooted in Scripture of how all economics are dependant on the land, the Earth – the economy, reconciliation, and individuals are all interconnected.

After a lunch of bison and bannock, MaryAnne Morrison of Métis heritage, a member of numerous diocesan reconciliation committees and projects, opened the afternoon focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada’s Calls to Action.

Morrison brought the room into a historical context by focusing on what led to the TRC, what happened during its work, where it left us, and what are our responsibilities, as well as those Calls to Action specific to churches that require a continued focus.

Bridging earlier themes of the day together, keynote speaker Milton Tootoosis offered an animated presentation on economic reconciliation anchored in Call to Action #92.


TRC Call to Action # 92

92: “We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

ii. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

iii. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”


Originally from Poundmaker Cree Nation, Milton Tootoosis, BA, PAED (nêhiyaw-pwât – kîskîkomânâ), is Co-founder and Chair of the Saskatchewan Indigenous Economic Development Network (SIEDN) and Director for the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (ILDII), and serves as a member of the Saskatoon Economic Development Authority, amongst other accolades.

Through humour, personal examples, and stories, Tootoosis introduced the lasting and continuing impacts of the paternalistic 1876 Indian Act that disqualified Indigenous participation in the economy for many years and continues to bottleneck participation for Indigenous people.

Tootoosis clarified that this act was never negotiated through the Treaties and ran contrary to the philosophy of the Treaties, which was not based on scarcity but a taking what one needs and leaving the rest for the next person. He named several current challenges, such as the Sask First Act, as obstacles that are “keeping the government in the way.”

Tootoosis paraphrased an unknown source by describing success as “how well we can work and play together.”

As a self-described optimist, Tootoosis elaborated on the resilience and existing contributions of Indigenous people to the Saskatchewan economy, which are growing. Another success is the longest legal winning streak in Canadian history.

Both the obstacles and celebrations were brought together in a closing quote from Poundmaker, “…we can never forget what happened, but we cannot go back.  Nor can we just sit beside the trail.”

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