SASKATOON — The Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran bishops of Saskatchewan have released a statement in the wake of often divisive reactions to the recent not guilty verdict in the trial of Biggar-area farmer Gerald Stanley for the shooting death of a young indigenous man, Colten Boushie.
“As bishops who serve Christian communities in our province, we join all those who are longing to escape the slavery of prejudice, racism, anger, frustration, violence and bitterness. We wish to join all those who are re-dedicating themselves to work for reconciliation and peace among all people in our communities and in our nation,” wrote the bishops.
The letter was signed by Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon; Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina; Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas; Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; Bishop Adam Halkett, the Anglican Indigenous Bishop of Missinippi; Bishop Robert Hardwick of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle; Bishop Sid Haugan of the Saskatchewan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Bishop Michael Hawkins of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan; Bishop David Irving of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon; and Bishop Albert Thévenot of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert
“The events surrounding the tragic shooting death of Colten Boushie in August 2016, and the subsequent trial of Gerald Stanley and recent jury decision, have resurfaced profound pain to families and communities,” begins the statement, which was circulated to parishes, churches, media, and on diocesan websites Feb. 16. These events “have also raised enormously important questions and challenges for our province and our country.”
“We continue to offer our prayers for all of you, and remain committed to the spirit and principles of truth and reconciliation as we learn to walk together as indigenous and non-indigenous people.”
In the statement, the bishops said they were rededicating themselves to work for reconciliation and peace in the province, and called upon the community to continue on the path of “building right relationships.”
“The path of peace is more than simply avoiding conflict — it is a call to active engagement and to concrete action that builds right relationships. Our biblical tradition highlights that violence breeds violence; that the path forward encompasses acting honourably and seeking mutual respect as we address difficult issues together. We acknowledge the message many of us are already hearing from Indigenous people across this province and beyond: ‘Be the change you want to see.’ ”
The statement notes that building right relationships has been the goal of the Truth and Reconciliation process that Canada has embarked on in recent years, saying that all are now being challenged and called to pursue that goal with renewed passion and commitment.
They also reiterated an earlier statement made by Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark: “We must continue to work with each other in a good way, in a respectful way.”
The bishops concluded their statement by asking for a renewed commitment to dialogue and to building relationships. “As representatives of our churches, we call our own communities, and the wider community, to take concrete steps, in words and actions, in a spirit of humility and good will, rooted in profound prayer,” they said.
“With a renewed commitment to pursue meaningful, respectful dialogue and the building of positive relationships between all peoples, may we reject the evils of racism and division, and strive to work for peace and reconciliation for a renewed future.”