The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, inspired a conversation on racism between three Canadian residents.
But we did not want to simply talk about what is happening south of the border, we wanted to talk about the racism that happens here — in Canada. I invited Derval Clarke and Laurie Barnard to have a conversation with me about their experiences with racism. Derval and Laurie are a part of Transformation Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, whose regular encounters with racism will come as a shock to many white Canadians who think we’ve moved past this issue.
Laurie’s involvement in this conversation felt increasingly necessary as we talked about our Canadian context. Canada has a long, ugly, 100-year history with residential schools—government funded, church-run institutions that attempted to force First Nations people to lose their cultural identity and conform to the culture and religion of the European settlers. The schools had government permission to fly into communities and take children from their homes without permission from their parents and force them to enroll in residential schools where they were stripped of their cultural identity and native language. The stories of sexual abuse by clergy and teachers is sickening. This part of Canada’s history is often swept under the rug and not talked about.
In this particular conversation, we do not delve into the history of residential schools. We simply wanted to draw attention to how Canadian minority groups experience racism on a regular basis. I believe this conversation is important for Wesleyans in both the Canadian and American context because we need to be aware of the evils and mistakes of our past to move into the future God has for us. The idea that Canada is more progressive and culturally aware is hurtful to many in our context who have experienced racism.
Racism is a very real issue in Canada and has been for many years. Racial tension in the U.S. is often in the news and on social media. There are many in Canada who look at what is happening in the U.S. and think, “I’m so glad that doesn’t happen here!” And there are many in the U.S. who look at Canada and think, “Why can’t we be less racist and more forward thinking like those in Canada?” The reality is the evil of racism very much exists in Canada.
It is the job of the Church to draw attention to this evil and to point people to the hope and reconciliation that is found in Jesus Christ. And the vision of The Wesleyan Church to launch a gospel-focused, church planting movement of disciples who are making disciples is exciting and does provide avenues to bring hope and reconciliation to a broken world.
I believe the more awareness we have of past mistakes, the more effectively we can follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as we endeavor to build diverse communities of disciple-makers in both the Canadian and American context.
Rev. Nathan Maskery serves as senior pastor at Transformation Church.