Announcement to Grace Church-on-the-Hill, Kingfisher Kids/ Gabriel Dumont Kids
By James Appleyard
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Good morning everyone.
I am pleased to be able to tell you today about some very positive developments in our congregation's outreach to the Canadian Indigenous community.
Many of you will recall that our initiative began with Grace Church-on-the-Hill's desire to acknowledge and to help address the injustices which were described in the Final Report, entitled "Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future", of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in which the Anglican Church of Canada played an important role. That report directly addressed the damage done by the Residential Schools and their painful impact on generations of Aboriginal Canadians.
Grace started this work in 2014 when a group first gathered in the church library, under Judith Moses' leadership, and started discussing what might be done. We commenced work on two fronts, simultaneously fundraising and reaching out to an isolated native community in Northern Ontario, Kingfisher Lake. We engaged in conversations with Bishop Lydia, the Anglican bishop in whose Diocese Kingfisher Lake is located, Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, with people in Kingfisher Lake, and with HIPPY Canada, a Vancouver-based organization that recognizes the mother as the child's first teacher, and has developed ways of working with Indigenous families, in their homes, to help restore culture and language as part of early childhood education to prepare pre- schoolers to start school.
While our fundraising was by any measure a great success – through the efforts of many parishioners, approximately $35,000 was raised through a number of events and collection plate appeals – our efforts to build lasting connections in Kingfisher Lake lay beyond the timelines that we could sustain. We learned a lot about the long periods of time needed to build community relations and capacity, especially in remote communities. It is true to say that there was much consideration, prayer and efforts to make it work. We will continue to nurture relationships there, but have agreed that Grace needs a project closer to home and with an organization with readiness to launch a practical project.
Again, under Judith Moses' direction last Spring we began a conversation with both HIPPY Canada, and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, a large and very reputable child welfare agency headquartered down on College Street, and with operations serving Indigenous children and families across the City. That conversation led, over time, to a new plan which has been overseen by the Wardens and administration of the parish. Let me tell you briefly about our exciting plan as it now stands.
Grace Church-on-the-Hill intends to sponsor the first two years of a HIPPY project at an Indigenous non-profit housing community in Scarborough where Native Child and Family Services is already active. The site is called Gabriel Dumont, and is named after a 19th century Metis leader, and associate of both Louis Riel, and Buffalo Bill. The community is located near Kingston Road and Lawrence, and is dedicated to housing aboriginal families. HIPPY has now trained-up a coordinator for the work that will be undertaken, and the plan is to shortly begin work with about a dozen mothers, and their young children. It is important to note that this is the first time that the HIPPY program will have been delivered with Indigenous families, ever, in Ontario. It is all very exciting, and it is happening because of the generosity and determination of the people of Grace Church to advance Reconciliation with our aboriginal brothers and sisters.
At this point, I would like to propose that we officially "re-christen" our project from Kingfisher Kids, to 'Gabriel Dumont Kids'. I hope you will agree that while it doesn't benefit from alliteration, that the new name also has a very positive ring to it.
We expect that there will be ways for people who are interested in doing so to engage with the HIPPY project at Gabriel Dumont. Conversations about that possibility have already started, such as establishing a "Friends of Gabriel Dumont Kids" group based here.
I am very much looking forward to learning about, and being able to communicate developments on this project over the coming months. In the meantime, I think we should rightly celebrate having crossed – not the finish line, but definitely the starting line - with our partners at HIPPY Canada and Native Child & Family Services, and most importantly with the families at Gabriel Dumont.