In May 2014, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) completed its last of seven national gatherings in Edmonton. The next step for the commission will be a closing gathering in Ottawa, as well as publishing a final report.
The question that many people are left with now is how to best follow up to the TRC. There are many initiatives among the Catholic entities party to the Indian residential school agreement that actually can and do serve as a follow-up, as well as some that are proposed.
A first initiative is the Returning To Spirit process developed by Marc Pizandawatc, a Nishnawbe human development worker, in collaboration with Sister Anne Thompson, SAA. This is a 10-day process that involves separate five-day workshops for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal persons; separate two-day workshops of preparation to meet together; and finally a three-day session together of dialogue, healing and reconciliation. The results have been very impressive.
Another initiative is the Building Bridges (BB) project sponsored by a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs (SCAA) of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops (AWCB). Headed up by Sister Eva Solomon, CSJ, a Nishwanabe religious sister, this project hosts Directions in Aboriginal Ministry, a summer session of orientation for Aboriginal ministry that has involved from 35 - 100 people annually. The seventh such session took place in Vancouver in the summer of 2014. The focus for the next session will likely be on the effects of colonization.
The BB project also hosts an annual Catholic First Nations Elders Dialogue that seeks to address the effects of colonization in the light of developing a more indigenous church. The third session was held recently in Saskatoon.
One diocese has trained some of their personnel to carry out the Healing Soul Pain workshops developed by Dr. Jane Simington of Taking Flight International. These workshops focus on trauma recovery and grief support systems and use mainly right-brained exercise to very effectively facilitate healing at a deeper level.
A project that is being planned and for which funding is being sought is a Cree Revitalization Project headed up by Steve Andreas, a former Oblate who has mastered the Cree language and knows the grammar well. His goal is especially to help Aboriginal people read and write their own language. He has already brought together all the work at his disposal that has been done on the Cree language and created a morphological lexicon that explains the basic framework of how the language is constructed.
There are talks and meetings taking place with Aboriginal leaders both within the church and ecumenically to discuss other ways that an effective follow-up to the TRC could be developed. The hope is to continue to find ways to bring healing and reconciliation between the churches, Canadian society and the First Peoples of this land.