“Everybody matters. Everybody belongs,” he said. “We have to find a way to get all these everybodies to start talking to each other so we can quit hurting each other. That’s what’s kind of driven me to this work.”
- Quote from Chief Bobby Joseph
Bill 41, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, was introduced in the BC legislature a few weeks ago. It made, and will continue to make, an impact on how Indigenous people will be considered in our province. It will mean that Aboriginal Peoples will for the first time be “equal decision-makers at the table where decisions are made that impact our lives.” (Cheryl Casimer, a First Nations Summit political executive in an interview on CBC Radio’s On the Coast.)
Equality is such a powerful word to us. In previous blogs I talked about the absolute authority the Indian Agent had over us – something I especially observed in the fear felt by my mother and grandmother whenever he made an appearance in our home village of Aiyansh. That sense of powerlessness was felt in the way that it was well-known that he could send us children to residential school without my mother even being able to question him on his actions. The emotional impact made us feel like we were not citizens in Canada, because we had no voice in anything we did.
We had no ownership of our lands, our children or our freedom. And most of all we did not have a voice to talk about our concerns. Equality for our people was nonexistent.
The destruction of our spiritual belief was another form of inequality, and yet the Indigenous people of Canada have worked with the Anglican Church to achieve this equality. ““People often misinterpret what we’re doing as an attempt at independence, away from the church,” National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald says. “We really wish to become an Indigenous expression of the church, and we are only asking for the freedom and dignity that other Anglicans already enjoy.” Our equality was finally recognized on July 11 when General Synod passed a resolution to give Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) full voting membership at General Synod 2019.”
It was wonderful to see our equality recognized, but more importantly to see it enacted. It was very significant day to see that people recognized our own Aboriginal belief in God and love of God.
Introducing legislation on Bill 41 implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is another step toward making us equal. UNDRIP has 47 articles and covers many different areas, such as self-determination, education, language, culture, sacred sites, and the right to lands, waters and resources. Article 12 states that Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spirituality and religious customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect and have access to privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
There are 47 articles and it is not in any way a veto power over the work and governance of British Columbia. We are just looking to finally have equality in our nation and province. The government and Indigenous people must work together in a government to government relationship to agree on the outcome of anything affecting the human rights of Aboriginal Peoples before it is brought before parliament.
My grandparents and my mother and father will rest peacefully knowing that first the Anglican Church, and now the provincial government, are working to make us all equal and give us the better lives that in their hearts, they always wanted for us.
Photos Anglican Church of Canada / Milos Tosic
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The Anglican Church in the Sunshine Coast, Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley consisting of 66 parishes and 3 worshipping communities on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish First Nations