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“Does The Church Really Care?”: The Indigenous Policies of the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Churches of Canada, 1946-1990



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Abstract This dissertation analyzes the Indigenous policies of the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Churches of Canada from 1946 to 1990. In 1951, upon examination of its Indigenous policies, the federal government’s Indigenous education policy shifted from religious segregated residential schools to educating Indigenous children in secular provincial schools with non-Indigenous children, a process called school integration. With the federal government’s decision to close down the residential school system, the Protestant churches, facing a decline in their role in Indigenous education, sought to re-examine their Indigenous policies. This dissertation argues that, although the timelines were different, all three Protestant churches’ Indigenous policies evolved from assimilation to recognizing their detrimental role in colonization. This shift was evident in 1960 as the Protestant institutions supported Indigenous people retaining their special rights, including Indian status and treaty rights, and culture while integrating into Canadian society, thus marking a distinct departure from assimilation. The Protestant churches’ Indigenous policies shifts are further evident throughout the 1970s and 1980s when the institutions supported Aboriginal rights, and by 1990 all three churches had Indigenous-driven governance structures in place at the national level. This dissertation further argues that the changes to the Protestant churches’ Indigenous policies from 1946 to 1990 developed the groundwork for future reconciliation efforts regarding the residential school system. When the residential school legacy surfaced in the 1990s, the Protestant Churches were shocked. However, after signing the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2007 the Protestant Churches were able to focus on reconciliation efforts and fall back on the work they had done in reforming their relationships with Indigenous people prior to the legacy surfacing. The relationship of the Protestant churches with Indigenous people in post-World War Two Canada is understudied. This dissertation of the comparative analysis of the Protestant churches’ evolution of their Indigenous policies is a first of its kind. It contributes to Canadian history, Indigenous history, and Church history while filling a historiographical gap in Indigenous-Church history in Canada.



Protestant Churches' Indigenous policy, Church-Indigenous history, Reconciliation



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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