Andrew Wesley, a member of the Albany Cree First Nations band on the west coast of James Bay, and originally from the diocese of Moosonee, was ordained a deacon for the diocese of Toronto on 11 May 2003. He will be giving leadership to indigenous urban ministry in the city of Toronto continuing work he began as a lay pastor.
"Some former students of Indian residential schools are concerned and confused about an Aug. 7  Ontario Superior Court ruling that testimony about the abuse suffered in the schools should be destroyed after 15 years unless they agree to provide their personal information to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The ruling applies only to testimony given by about 40,000 former students to the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), an out-of-court process set up following the negotiation of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement" (p. 1). "The Rev. Andrew Wesley, a former residential school student, now an Anglican priest who works in urban native ministry with the diocese of Toronto, said that there has been some confusion among survivors who think that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) testimonies are being destroyed. 'Actually, that's not so', he explained. Records from hearings that have taken place across Canada since 2010 are public and will be archives in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg" (p. 3). "Survivors who would prefer to have the transcripts of their testimony to the IAP returned to them can request a copy by asking the adjudicator at their hearing" (p. 3).
"The biggest stumbling block to evangelism for native people is the word itself, participants at a consultation on evangelism in the diocese of Moosonee were told. The February  conference was called Weetum, a Cree word which means 'tell it'. Andrew Wesley, a native leader in the diocese, said during a workshop he gave on a native perspective of evangelism, that the word itself does not translate into the native language. Native participants associated it with being pressured to join an evangelical denomination".
Former residential school students attended the Ontario hearing for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and raised objections to parts of the deal. One of their concerns is the missing records of former students. The churches are making their records available to help identify students.
"Three indigenous people of faith have extolled the value of multi-faith work in Canada, saying it not only provides opportunities to learn from others but also promotes healing and reconciliation among peoples and communities. But they also acknowledged the need to do more to develop and strengthen relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal faiths and spiritual traditions. The Rev. Andrew Wesley, Lori Ransom and Dawn Maracle on Aug. 14  spoke about 'Indigenous Experience and Diversity' at the North American Interfaith Network conference held at the University of Toronto's Multi-Faith Centre". "Ransom, for her part, provided conference participants with an overview of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), where she is senior advisor responsible for churches and other faith communities. The TRC's mandate is broader that the residential schools; part of its role is to help Canada discern a path to reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people, Ransom said".
Since May  when the federal government appointed Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to work on Indian residential schools issues, intensive negotiations have been underway involving representatives of government, plaintiffs' counsel, the Assembly of First Nations and the churches.
Mr. Justice Iacobucci's mandate is to negotiate a resolution of all the outstanding issues around residential schools, and to make a final report by March 2006.
These negotiations were established following a political agreement signed by the federal government and the AFN which included the possibility of a lump sum payment to all former IRS [Indian residential school] students, along with continuation of the present alternative dispute resolution process for those former students who have claims of major sexual abuse.
The Anglican Church of Canada has been represented in these negotiations by lawyers John Page and Brian Daly. A second working group on the non-legal issues such as truth-telling, commemoration and healing, includes the Reverend Andrew Wesley and Archdeacon Jim Boyles.
Although the issues are numerous and complex, talks are proceeding. It is expected that Mr. Justice Iacobucci will meet his deadline.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison has been consulting with dioceses on the issue of a partial release. When a former student's claim is validated, he or she is required to sign a release which prevents them from bringing further legal action against the church or government. The Anglican Church requires a full and final release, but other churches and the government have agreed to accept a partial release, leaving open the possibility of further legal action regarding loss of language and culture.
Archbishop Hutchison has consulted with diocesan bishops and chancellors over the summer on the advisability of moving towards a partial release. However, in light of developments and until the Iacobucci report is made public, the Primate has written the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples reaffirming that their concern about the full release is "still on my agenda" but advising them that he has decided to delay consultations with the dioceses. Once the Iacobucci report is released, he says in the letter, "we will be able to decide how best to proceed".
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For more information, please contact: Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Synod Consultant for Residential Schools Litigation, email@example.com, 416-516-9929.