SCM’s mission statement, our Living Prayer, calls us to act “in solidarity with the oppressed to resist structures of domination and realize justice in this world.”
In Canada, we cannot help but recognize that our country is founded upon such structures of domination, starting with the dispossession and marginalization of Indigenous peoples (also called First or Aboriginal peoples). This founding legacy continues to this day – only decades after the last of the church-government Residential Schools closed, Indigenous peoples’ continue to struggle to protect their lands, claim their inherent rights (including self-determination) and simply survive.
Although SCMers have long been involved in Indigenous Rights issues, the Movement in Canada began to dialogue and issue solidarity statements on the First Nations Day of Action(2007), Indigenous Environmental Rights (2008), and the 2010 Olympics (2009). SCMers across the country participated in Idle No More activities. SCMers in Winnipeg engaged in the Honour Walk. In 2015 SCMers gathered in Ottawa (Algonquin territory) for the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.
We know that any Indigenous Solidarity campaign we participate in must be buttressed by relationships and healing for all. Therefore we share our place in this ongoing effort.
SCM Draft Resolution on Indigenous Rights
Approved by SCM General Council 2009 as a basis for discussion and solidarity actions.
“Where one would be overcome, two will put up resistance. And a three-braid cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, New Jerusalem Version)
Whereas the Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM) is a youth movement operating within traditional Indigenous territories, as well as within the global movement of SCMs, we believe:
that the Indigenous Peoples of this land, who are the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have, through colonialism, been subjected to numerous crimes, including but not limited to, occupation, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid;
that all are harmed by the broken relationships, broken communities, and broken trust resulting from colonization;
that we need to struggle to transform all systems that continue Canada’s tragic legacy of racism and perpetuate the oppression of Indigenous peoples and that the systems of oppression in which we exist have deep intersections, including but not limited to discrimination, poverty, sexism, environmental destruction, police brutality, and cultural appropriation;
that the Canadian government’s 2008 apology for residential schools did not address colonialism in a substantive or meaningful way, and stands in glaring contrast to Canada’s refusal to sign the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
that the global political, social and economic systems of domination in our world today – which we call Empire – also remind us of the call to repentance, for all those who live on this land, but also as people associated with the Christian churches, which also have much for which to repent;
that the various peoples of Canada have a duty and role to play in helping to protect and heal the Earth, to challenge the exploitation of the land, and to build a culture of mutual respect, reconciliation and peace;
that Indigenous groups are whole societies in which a change at a cultural level can disrupt all other institutional patterns that society has, and in which all actions have a spiritual component;
that, as people of radical faith and spirituality we must challenge the traditional paradigm of domination over marginalized peoples and the earth, which has been and is often justified through Biblical texts and implemented in the name of Christian mission;
that colonial Christian proselytizing of Indigenous peoples, groups and communities, especially in light of the use of the Bible and Christian beliefs, has created a divide within many communities, impeding Indigenous unity;
that the churches have not done enough to redress the residential schools and assimilation projects;
that interfaith dialogue and spiritual diversity are vital to our mission as a radically ecumenical and multi-faith youth movement with a long history of seeking to act “in solidarity with the oppressed to resist structures of domination and realize justice in this world” (from the SCM Living Prayer Mission Statement), based on how we understand the prophetic life and teachings of the revolutionary Jesus of Nazareth. We respect and celebrate the right of all peoples to live out their culture, beliefs and spirituality;
THUS AS THE STUDENT CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT WE COMMIT:
to strive to act in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of this world in an ongoing way. This may take many forms, and it is not easy to all agree on what solidarity looks like. We will strive to participate in days of action and demonstrations for Indigenous rights; to build respectful relationships with Indigenous communities; to acknowledge that we are building our ecumenical movement on Indigenous land, recalling that we are guests here; and to welcome the unique gifts, alliances and cultures of Indigenous youth in our movement, to name but a few;
to challenge ourselves, our churches, faith-communities and society to strive to build right relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, as a journey of beauty, celebration and holiness deeply rooted in sacred teachings;
to push the churches to end the active colonial proselytizing of Indigenous peoples, but rather to work in solidarity and accompaniment, while recognizing the right of all peoples to practice their chosen form of spirituality in relations of mutual responsibility and interdependence;
to advocate for and support revitalization of Indigenous languages as a redress for the role of the Churches in destroying Indigenous cultures in residential schools;
to support and uphold all international conventions on issues impacting Indigenous peoples, especially the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, regardless of whether the Canadian state is a signatory or not;
to pray for a peaceful unfolding of justice for those so deeply hurt and wronged by colonization – not only historically but also through the Canadian state, economic system, environmental destruction and pervasive racism against the Indigenous peoples of this land;
to call our members, local units, and all people of conscience to carry out the work of solidarity and justice, if not yet begun, and to work for increased interrelationship of all peoples;
to pray for repentance (“a turning around,” in Biblical terms) and the courage to resist and oppose pervasive systems of racism, and to challenge understandings of racialization and marginalization, as allies with peoples and communities, remembering that we, too, can fall short of the mark;
to also pray for healing and hope for those scarred through the generations. We believe that Jesus, who opposed the Empire of his day to the point of martyrdom, will strengthen all those who struggle to survive, to resist, and to learn better the practices of solidarity, and right relationship;
to commit as a movement to continuing our living prayer mission as we walk in solidarity. And, as we pray together at every national gathering of the Student Christian Movement, acknowledging the Indigenous nations’ territories upon which we work:
“As guests on this land, we give deep thanks.
We are blessed with the opportunity
to work towards right relations,
to resist all that threatens Creation,
to confront injustice, privilege and empire,
to pray and live our way into the kingdom of God,
and to learn graceful ways of living on this Earth.”
May our first steps of solidarity move us from the isolation of one to the resilient strength of a “three-braid cord” standing together, with all our relations.
Approved by SCM General Council 2009 as a basis for discussion and solidarity actions.
Assimilation: The overt or invisible process of coercing a marginalized people into the dominant culture’s worldview, economic system and religious/social belief system.
Canada: As an affiliate movement of the World Student Christian Federation, the SCM Canada uses the European-designated name, ‘Canada,’ throughout our activism and work. In the context of Indigenous culture, however, the Canadian state can be contentious. We use ‘Canada’ as the name by which this land is commonly known, regardless of the fact that many other names have been given before. However, SCM Canada General Council 2009 decided to replace ‘National’ with ‘General’ at all levels of programmes and publications, in recognition that there are many nations within this territory.
Colonization: The extension of a nation’s sovereignty over territory beyond its borders by the establishment of either settler or exploitation colonies in which indigenous populations are directly ruled, displaced, or exterminated. Colonizing nations generally dominate the resources, labor, and markets of the colonial territory, and may also impose socio-cultural, religious, and linguistic structures on the indigenous population. It is essentially a system of direct political, economic, and cultural intervention and hegemony by a powerful country in a weaker one. The term colonialism may also be used to refer to an ideology or a set of beliefs used to legitimize or promote this system.
Cultural appropriation: The theft or unconsenting use of a marginalized culture’s objects, beliefs, art and spirituality by the dominant culture – whether it be unconscious, commercial, or coercive. The dominant culture’s preservation of Indigenous cultural artifacts without recognition of Indigenous rights.
Empire: The global political, social and economic system of domination in our world today, which is not based upon a particular territory or state but rather a global logic of rule or operating system. It includes processes of globalization, corporate rule, and intersecting forms of oppression.
Guests: This is a contentious word, and has been hotly debated. In SCM, we have acknowledged that we are ‘guests’ on this land, which is traditional territory of Indigenous peoples. We are in discussion currently to explore whether this term implies that we have consent and permission to use this land, or if consent to our presence must first be earned. Share your thoughts for our final draft!
Indigenous peoples: The original nations of this land, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
Oppression: The domination and subjugation of a social group or community, which intersects with multiple forms of domination and privilege.
Paradigm of domination: The worldview in which privileged social groups are enabled to rule over and benefit from the subjugation of other groups.
Racialization: The cultural processes and discourses that create assumptions of racial identities, recognizing that ‘race’ does not exist prior to defining and categorizing people into hierarchies. It signifies the extension of dehumanizing and racial meanings to a previously racially unclassified relationship, social practice, or group.
Racism: Racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination based on historical constructions of skin colour and group difference(s). Racism is supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, which is used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviours in systemic ways.
Residential schools: Institutions created by the Federal Government and operated by Churches which placed Indigenous children into European-style school. Cultural assimilation, sexual abuse and enforced loss of Indigenous identity have had a devastating legacy in Indigenous communities.
Traditional territories: The lands used and lived upon by Indigenous peoples’ prior to colonization, to which Indigenous peoples have an inherent right under treaties, agreements, law and constitution.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Signed in 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations by a a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States)