MCC has sought to walk in friendship and solidarity with Indigenous neighbours for nearly 50 years.
Together, we share some important values. A concern for justice. A close connection to the land. Commitment to community.
We also share an awareness that the history between Mennonites and Indigenous peoples includes some deep injustices. As we address this history, MCC is committed to following Christ’s call to healing, reconciliation and peace.
It’s not always an easy road—but a critically important one.
MCC’s Indigenous Neighbours program listens to the voices of Indigenous people and communities wherever we work. We rely on their knowledge and experience. Because no two relationships look the same, the program has a unique shape in each province.
Here’s a small sample of the themes that shape our work and relationships:
Indian residential schools
As a Christian organization, MCC was part of the larger church that inflicted harm onto generations of Indigenous families through the residential school system.
Mennonites operated three residential schools in Ontario, and were involved in day schools and boarding homes in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As well, during the Second World War, Mennonite Conscientious Objectors served as teachers in day and residential schools.
As we look at this history, we realize there are no simple answers. MCC is working to break down barriers, relieve anxieties and build respectful, healing and long-term relationships between churches and Indigenous neighbours.
We also walk in grief following the confirmation of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools. We commit to honouring the lives of all those whose graves were found—and will be found. We mourn with the families of these children.
We commit to walking alongside Indigenous sisters and brothers seeking justice. We commit to increasing our advocacy and public engagement on issues related to Indigenous justice.
Resilience and trauma (the impacts of generational trauma)
MCC recognizes the generational trauma experienced by many within Indigenous communities. We acknowledge the cycles of trauma that are part of a complex and difficult journey of healing. We are humbled by the determination, resiliency and creativity of survivors. MCC is honoured to walk alongside many survivors. It is a gift to be able to share some of their stories.
Responding to the TRC Calls to Action
From 2008–2015, Canada formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Its purpose was to document the history and impacts of the Canadian Indian residential school system. At the end of the process, the commission issued 94 Calls to Action.
The TRC invites us to actively participate in restoring broken relationships with Indigenous neighbours. We recognize our steps may be unsteady or difficult. But we know they will begin as we walk side by side with Indigenous Neighbours.
In July 2017, MCC issued a statement responding to the TRC Calls to Action. We acknowledge the long, complex history and current relationships between MCC and the Indigenous peoples of what we now call Canada. We reject concepts used to justify European superiority over Indigenous peoples. We also commit to using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a guide for right relations and reconciliation.
Treaties and unceded territories
Between 1871 and 1921, 11 treaties were made between the British Crown and Indigenous peoples. Treaties are agreements that outline the rights and responsibilities of both groups in the framework of an ongoing relationship.
On a deeper level, treaties are sacred covenants—an agreement about how to share the land. Treaties have ongoing importance to both Indigenous and settler peoples.
In some areas of Canada, no treaties were made. The land is unceded, which means no land-sharing arrangements were ever agreed upon by the Indigenous groups who lived in that area before settlers arrived.
MCC walks alongside Indigenous neighbours to provide education about treaties and unceded land. We encourage all Canadians to learn more about local land and history, and about the Indigenous peoples who call this land home. Do you know where you are? What you discover may surprise you!
Land and resource extraction
Indigenous peoples have a deep and sacred connection to the land. MCC honours that connection by advocating alongside Indigenous neighbours for land rights.
As Christians, we are called to speak up when neighbours experience injustice—including being displaced from their land and home. We recognize that Mennonites played a role in the history of Indigenous displacement in Canada. In many regions of the country, MCC is working toward healing reconciliation as we address this history.
There are no simple answers. But we are committed to open and honest dialogue.
We also join Indigenous neighbours in protecting the environment. As Christians, we are called to be faithful caretakers of God’s good creation. We recognize the well-being of humans and the rest of creation are interconnected. We work together with Indigenous neighbours to care for the land—for today and for future generations.
Water access and food security
Clean water is essential for life. But dozens of First Nations communities across Canada lack access to clean water. These communities live under ongoing advisories. They must boil their water before using it—or haul drinking water to their communities. MCC advocates alongside Indigenous neighbours to ensure all people have clean, safe drinking water.
Everyone should have access to healthy foods that are right for them. But many northern Indigenous communities are not regularly able to access fresh and nutritious foods. High prices and unpredictable delivery put food security out of reach for many. At the invitation of Indigenous communities, MCC has been supporting efforts to grow more crops locally to create more stable and affordable access to fresh foods. Working toward food security means that people and nations will have control of their own food systems.
Education and constituency engagement
MCC’s goal is to build respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We offer opportunities for people to learn about the harmful impacts of colonization and the residential school system. The legacy of discrimination and abuse has left deep scars. We help equip churches and other groups for the ministry of reconciliation and peacebuilding.
And we offer practical support to Indigenous communities when requested. We distribute relief items such as comforters, canned meat, soap and towels to vulnerable communities.
MCC also works in Ottawa, amplifying the voices of Indigenous neighbours to the Canadian government. MCC Canada’s Peace & Justice Office advocates with and on behalf of Indigenous partners to promote positive political, social and economic change for Indigenous peoples. This includes advocating for Indigenous rights.