By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
Reconciliation. How often has that word been used in recent times?
The concept of reconciliation means different things to different people. Because of the diversity of expectations, the actual achievement of being reconciled to others generates its own challenges.
I was chosen to participate as a delegate from New Brunswick for the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference in 1987.
Modelled after the Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Conference, the GGCLC is a gathering of representative individuals from diverse groups of people from across Canada who are brought together every four or five years to explore a study theme of contemporary significance.
In 1987 the theme was ”From Vision to Reality”. I was in a study group that was composed of union members and business leaders, in addition to a number of us who represented different facets of a cross section of the wider community. the sixteen people in our group were given the opportunity to travel and visit a variety of communities in Northern Quebec and the Gaspe’, concluding our tour in Quebec City.
After our study tour, we met up with other tour groups who had explored other parts of Canada, from the Yukon through to Newfoundland. Each group was then given the opportunity to reflect on their experience and make a presentation to the Governor General of the day, Her Excellency, Madame Jeanne Sauvé.
After meeting with leaders in different communities and businesses, after experiencing the vast beauty of Canada and being attentive to the hopes and dreams of Canadians in the different regions across the country, there was much we had to share with the Governor General.
Listening to the different study groups as they offered their own reflections, provided all the participants with an awareness of the hopes and dreams of so many citizens who saw, each in their own way, the challenges and opportunities ahead of them, as they sought to turn their own vision for their future into a new reality.
Over the years I have been fortunate to attend the closing sessions of the different conferences. The themes have changed, and the improving technology used in the presentations have made each succeeding conference a unique experience. The approach of the questions offered by the Governor Generals has reflected their own interests and background. Participation in these gatherings has been described (rather accurately, I think) as like having a back stage pass to Canada.
This year, even with being impacted by complications attached to Covid infections of participants and a delay of several years, the Conference had a unique focus. With the theme “Leadership for the Future”, members of the Conference were able to reflect on the impact of a worldwide pandemic and what lessons individuals have been able to draw from their experiences at every level of community life. In addition to the Conference theme, our first Indigenous Governor General, offered a consistent question to every study group: “What shape do you see the process of Reconciliation take in the communities you visited and how do you see the experience of Reconciliation becoming a priority in your own life?“
There were those who noted the rather low priority that was being given by some of the individuals and organizations that the groups had met during their study tours as they addressed the concept of Reconciliation. Others spoke with enthusiasm about the way in which the people that they had met in their travels had embraced the idea of Reconciliation and made it a priority in their workplace and in their personal lives.
The Governor General encouraged each and every participant in this year’s Conference to see their future leadership roles as being an opportunity to promote Reconciliation. One First Nation participant did not mince his words. He simply said to all of us who were present, “Read the (...) Truth and Reconciliation Report!!! “.
As members of a community of faith, each in our own setting, it is important to be aware of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to be mindful of the 94 “calls to action” which are set out in the report, which are intended to further reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadian society.
Faithful readers of this column will remember that I have referenced a quotation which is rooted in the halls of Huron University College and found its way into becoming a central defining statement of the Anglican Congress of Toronto in 1963. Those who identify themselves as being part of the worldwide Anglican Communion are called to be “mutually responsible and interdependent members of the Body of Christ”.
We express our faith as we participate in the process of Reconciliation in our own lives, when we commit ourselves to let the words of our worship reflect that call and that commitment.
May we, who share his body, live his risen life;
we, who drink his cup, bring life to others;
we, whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so that we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
(BAS pg. 214 - 215 )
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.
Photo: Honourable Mary Simon, the Governor General of Canada,
with our columnist.
Featured photo: Red George. THE ORIGINAL CHIEF AND COUNCIL