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United Church of Canada: Steps in the Journey Towards Right Relationships (1947 – 2008)

1947 UCC Brief to the Parliamentary Comm. on Reform of the Indian Act: “That Residential Schools should be closed in favour of non-denominational schools on Indian Reserves”
1969 (April) End of United Church role in Residential Schools.
1975 The United Church of Canada becomes an active member of the ecumenically-organized Project North and its successor, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC).
1977 General Council 27 decision to review the United Church work with native people.
1978 Saskatchewan Conference approves “Call for a Year of Repentance”, with the program throughout 1979
1980 First National Aboriginal Consultations held (June & Oct) and others follow every 1-3 years; last one in July 2005
1984 Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Centre established
1980’s BC Native Ministries Consortium established including community-based theological education in partnership with Anglican organizations
1986 (Aug) UCC issues a formal apology to First Nations Peoples within the church; acknowledged but not accepted
1987 Francis Sandy Theological Centre is established
1988 All Native Circle Conference established
1992 (Aug) Stan McKay elected, first Aboriginal Moderator
1993 (Nov) UCC brief to Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
1994 (Aug) Healing Fund established – goal of $1 million
1996 27 former Alberni IRS students launch lawsuit against UCC and Government of Canada seeking compensation and damages for abuses committed by Arthur Plint, a dormitory supervisor. Known as Blackwater case.
1997 (May) St. Andrew’s United makes apology to former students of Alberni Indian Residential School
1997 (Aug) 36th GC makes Statement of Repentance re: res schools
1998 (Feb) Blackwater trial begins: 8 plaintiffs remain. Settled with 20 plaintiffs prior to trial.
1998 (June) Justice Brenner’s rules on vicarious liability in Blackwater trial. Both church and government are liable. Appealed by UC. Moderator sends pastoral letter over painful and difficult decision. See July 2001, Dec. 2003, Oct.2005
1998 (June) GCE strikes Residential Schools Steering Committee, establishes staff position, and instructs DMC (now JGER) to prepare educational resources
1998 (Oct) GC Executive issues a formal apology to residential school students, their families and communities
  Justice and Reconciliation Fund established
2000 (Mar) Gathering of former staff of the 13 UC-associated schools
2000 (Aug) General Council creates portfolios for a stronger capacity for racial justice, and for enhanced, vital relationships between the regions of the church and General Council.
2000 (Sept) Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative and Aboriginal Rights Coalition within KAIROS launch a national campaign in support of Aboriginal land rights
2000 (Oct) Reconciliation and Justice Leadership Support Gathering – 90 people from every Conference meet at Cedar Glen
2001 (July) Judge Brenner rules that UCC is 25% liable in case of six remaining Blackwater plaintiffs
2001 (July) News release: UCC says cultural loss must be included in negotiations with Ottawa; says no to bilateral deal with Canada.
2001 (Fall) Federal Government says it will pay only 70% in cases not under Brenner ruling
2001 (Nov) Future Directions Report names 4 mission directions:Following God in Mission:
  • Fostering Faith in a Changing Culture
  • Participating in God’s : Shalom and Justice-seeking
  • Repentance, Justice, and the Seeking of Right Relations with Aboriginal Peoples
  • Ministry in the 21st Century: Supporting Leadership for Ministry and Mission
2002 Staff position for Aboriginal Ministries created
  Church and others successfully urge abandonment of Bill C-7 regarding First Nations governance
2003 (May) UCC participates in pilot project of an alternative settlement process with Gitxsan survivors
2003 (Aug) GC accepts challenge to push for a “public inquiry” into residential schools as recommended by RCAP. Initiates “Roundtable” process in 2004 with churches, AFN, and government. Pre-empted by appointment and mandate of Judge Iacobucci in May 2005.

GC also commissions “Circle and Cross” dialogues

GC commits to ongoing funding for Healing Fund

2003 (Oct) GCE adopts 6 Principles for guiding Right Relations work
2003 (Nov) Canada launches Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process – UCC commits to attend every hearing unless claimant declines. UCC trains volunteers for this role.
2003 (Dec) BC Court of Appeal says Canada is 100% liable.
2004 (Feb) Government files appeal of BC ruling with Supreme Court. UCC continues to pay 30% except in Alberni cases where it pays 25%.
2004 Launch of “Sisters in Spirit” campaign with Native Women’s Association, the Anglican Church, and Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada.
2004 (May) 1st National Day of Healing and Reconciliation
2004 Healing Fund remandated, new staff position created
2005 (Apr) UCC supports Assembly of First Nations Review Report on ADR process. Calls for a holistic response to legacy of residential schools with 7 elements.
2005 (May) Justice Iacobucci appointed federal representative to negotiate and make recommendations on lump sum payments, ADR, commemoration, community healing and Truth and Reconciliation process. Working groups formed which involve UCC representation.
2005 (Oct) Supreme Court reinstates 75/25% liability decision
2005 (Nov) Canada announces Agreement in Principle on resolution package negotiated by Justice Iacobucci
2006 (Feb) UCC leads workshop “Decolonizing Ourselves; Transforming Ourselves” at WCC Assembly in Brazil
2006 (Feb) Special INFOPAC mailing to commemorate 20th anniversary of apology to First Nations Peoples
2006 (Mar) To date, some 800 claims from former IRS students have been filed naming UCC; 360 settled out of court, 6 court decisions. Received 280 ADR applications with 155 hearings completed or scheduled.
2006 (May) Settlement Agreement is finalized. UCC approves Agreement on April 30th and federal Cabinet on May 10th.
2007 (May) Working Group on Missing Children established
2007 Settlement Agreement implemented on September 19th

For information on Remembering the Children: an Aboriginal and Church Leaders' Tour to Prepare for Truth and Reconciliation, email

This page was last modified: February 27, 2008
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