The Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #64 is a challenge to Christian churches and schools… and the First Commandment
Last year Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published its final report as well an accompanying document with 94 “calls to action.” The TRC report resulted from over seven years of hearing abuse allegations from aboriginal Canadians who had been students in the country’s Indian residential schools (which operated from the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996). The exact extent of the abuse that took place may never be known because the Commission heard complaints but had no power to compel testimony. That meant abuse claims could be heard, but not fully investigated – the accused individuals were never brought forward to either answer for or defend their actions.
When the TRC released their 94 calls to action the Liberal Party quickly promised to implement every one of them, and reaffirmed this promise after forming the government of Canada.
Promoting truth and reconciliation sounds noble, but the conclusions of this report are radical, promoting one culture and religion over all others. This article will limit its focus to a key recommendation that pertain directly to Christian churches and schools.
Requiring native spirituality at school
Because some of the abuse occurred at Christian residential schools, some of the report’s calls to action were directed towards Christian schools and the churches associated with them today. Call to action #64 states:
“We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal elders.”
By “denominational” schools, the report is likely targeting all religious schools, regardless of their formal connection to specific church denominations.
Forcing religious schools to promote aboriginal spirituality, even if such spirituality violates the Christian faith, flows from a consistent message in the TRC report that requires churches and religious institutions to “affirm Indigenous spirituality in its own right.” These institutions are being called on to “formally recognize Indigenous spirituality as a valid form of worship that is equal to their own.”
Freedom of religion should mean being free from State coercion
If someone were to ask me, or the Christian school I’m a member of, to teach that aboriginal spiritual beliefs are equal to my own Reformed Christian faith, I would respectfully point out to them that they are wrong and there is no way I will comply. Doing so violates the first commandment – it is idolatry.
Pagan aboriginal spirituality has little in common with the gospel of Jesus Christ and I’m not going to confuse my children by claiming that the competing faith claims are the same. But Natives are free to try to convince me otherwise, just as I will encourage my neighbors to consider the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
But it is a different matter altogether when the TRC demand that the State compels its citizens to undermine their beliefs by forcing the indoctrination of pagan spirituality. And when the Liberal government promises to follow through, then our fundamental freedoms are at risk.
Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms lists the fundamental freedoms that all Canadian possess and that must be protected from any actions by the State. They include freedom of conscience, religion, and association. All three are involved here – when Christians come together to form churches and schools, they do so protected by the freedom to associate, and the freedom to live according to their religion. When the State forces these churches and schools to promote a religion that undermines their own, these constitutional rights are violated.
Natives don’t want to be treated this way
Even aboriginal Canadians should speak up against this assault on freedom. In fact, the very same TRC calls to action includes the demand that all faith groups commit to:
“…respecting Indigenous people’s right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practice, develop, and teach their own spiritual traditions, customs, and ceremonies…”
So all faith groups may not interfere in indigenous spirituality, but the TRC report, supported by Canada’s government, demands that interference into the religious teachings of all other faith groups. It is a one-way street. This is the very reason why we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms – to protect citizens from the State including when the State thinks it can tell people what to believe!
The politicization of the residential schools has made it difficult to get a firm handle of what really happened in these schools. It is indisputable and unjustifiable that abuse occurred. It is also completely inappropriate for the State to require the removal of children from their homes to be placed in institutional care, except in extreme circumstances. Where wrong was done, justice must be served, also when churches or governments are responsible. But we also know that the residential schools were well-intentioned and went a long way towards helping disadvantaged people with education, nutrition, skills, and medical care. When good was done, that too must be acknowledged.
Canada’s federal government is not helping anybody, especially Canada’s aboriginal peoples, by endorsing all of the demands from the TRC.