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To the People of the United Church

A letter from wape'k mikjikj e'pit

by Cathy Gerrior

Cathy Gerrior is calling on people to challenge the United Church on its decision to remain invested in Goldcorp.   Photo: Paula Gerrior
Cathy Gerrior is calling on people to challenge the United Church on its decision to remain invested in Goldcorp. Photo: Paula Gerrior

I am called wape'k mikjikj e'pit - white turtle woman.  I am the daughter of a residential school survivor and know first-hand the generational and long term effects of the abuses suffered there.   It has been partly through the reconciliation work of the United Church that I have reconnected with my own heritage and culture.  I recently learned, however, that the United Church's pension plan is invested in Goldcorp.  I feel confused and betrayed.  My teachings are that an apology is not sincere when the one who apologizes continues to do the same thing that was harmful.

My personal story is not uncommon.  My mother was in a residential school in Labrador for approximately four years.  She was one of the children who never went back home once she joined her brother and sister at the school.  My Grandmother eventually found a way to get her kids away from the school and moved her children far from there.  That provided some immediate safety for her family, but the long term was a different story.  As a result of the residential schools, I was raised away from my culture. I lived most of my life apart from who and what I am.

My journey to reclaim my own culture was, in a large part, made possible by the United Church.  I am not a member of the church in any way, however,  I and my family have  benefitted from the church's commitment to hold themselves accountable for their complicity in operating the residential schools.  My very first experience with Ceremony was through the Peace and Friendship Gatherings held at the Tatamagouche Centre.  The Tatamagouche Centre is one of the four education and retreat centers of the United Church of Canada. This is where I first began to confront my own demons, begin the healing process and my journey to honor who and what I am.  

Recently, I was devastated by the news that the United Church; who i have considered groundbreakers, has chosen to allow the United Church Pension Plan to remain invested with Goldcorp.  Goldcorp is a mining company in Guatemala that is accused of being responsible for many atrocities perpetrated against the Mayan's, their culture, and Mother Earth.  

In July of this year, the United Church partly funded my trip to Guatemala to enable me to attend the Health Tribunal as a representative of the Breaking the Silence Network.  My role was to stand in solidarity with the Mayan people against the mining companies who are decimating people, culture, and the environment for obscene profits.  I was honored to travel there and play this role.  

Goldcorp uses mining techniques that require the decimation of seven tones of mountain to produce one ounce of gold, according to Grahame Russell, our delegation leader in Guatemala.  And that they have many mountains there they intend to mine.   Goldcorp is directly benefitting from millions of dollars invested by the Canada Pension Fund.  

Canadian mining companies, including Goldcorp, are accused of being directly involved in murders, rapes, and illegal land evictions of many communities of Mayan people.

How is it possible to, on the one hand, work hard to reconcile with the past of violations against the native people here; and then on the other, consciously and willingly profit from the violations currently being perpetrated on the native people in Guatemala? While in Guatemala, I saw very clearly that the Mayans are indeed our brothers and sisters, with their connection to Mother Earth and their life-giving ceremonies.

I don't know where this leaves me.  I know that I will find ways of making my feelings known to the United Church and hold them accountable for this unthinkable choice.  I ask you to do the same.  I also ask you to research where your own pension plans are invested and to choose not to profit from the continuing decimation of native people, cultures, and Mother Earth.  I ask for you to stand against money being the new Sacred, and to do what you know to be right.  Truth, Memory, and Justice for all.

Welalio - thanks to you all.
Cathy Gerrior

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686 words


Well said, Cathy!

Well said, Cathy!

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