Campion College, a federated college with the University of Regina, November 18 outlined three initiatives it intends to take in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC headed by Justice Murray Sinclair released a report in May with recommendations intended to reconcile differences between Canada’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. Most have to do with the impact residential schools had on First Nations society. The announcement included remarks from Jesuit Provincial for English Canada Reverend Peter Bisson, S.J. Campion College President Dr. John Meehan, S.J. and Cree Elder Noel Starblanket.
“As a Jesuit College, Campion plays an important role in promoting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Meehan in a prepared statement following the announcement of the initiatives. “This is not only a priority in our college’s new strategic plan it is also a key priority of the Jesuits in English Canada.”
A 10-person Advisory Circle has been created to advise on practical steps to build bridges between communities. It contains representatives from the College, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. It is charged with the responsibility of developing a Campion-specific response to the TRC recommendations.
Jesuits in training will take a summer course at First Nations University, another federated College of the University of Regina, in what is called an Indigenous Immersion Experience. They will learn Indigenous culture and wisdom from Elders at “culture camps” ceremonies and other events. Jesuit in training will also work with First Nations at the Mother Teresa Middle School here; serve with organizations that work with First Nations people and get to know them first hand to learn about their experience. This initiative is in direct response to the TRC recommendation on training of clergy, said Meehan.
A scholarship fund has been created for students at the Mother Teresa Middle School, (MTMS) a partner institution, to enable students to attend Campion and the University of Regina. Students from Mother Teresa Middle School, established in 2011, will become of university age in 2017 when Campion celebrates its Centennial.
Meehan said Campion can do much through its academic mission, its care of the person and its relationship with Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners including MTMS, the Regina Archdiocese Aboriginal Relations Committee, First Nations University, Aboriginal Student Centre and Friends on the Outside (FOTO). Friends on the Outside is a group who works with released or paroled individuals helping them deal with issues related to re-integration in society.
Meehan suggested in his statement that inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada remains one of the most pressing social issues Canada faces and it’s one of the top priorities of the Jesuits in English Canada. Part of that is historic, said Meehan. “We came to Canada 400 years ago to work with Indigenous people. More recently we’ve been very involved with the TRC and very supportive of those affected by residential schools and forthcoming with documents” for the TRC.