In collaboration with Ottawa’s Saint Paul University and other partners, some of the city’s Catholic post-secondary students are coming together with representatives of First Nations to collaboratively ponder the problem of clean drinking water at an Oct. 22 symposium inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.
The symposium — Our Common House: As Long As The River Flows — is organized by Canada’s Office of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), in partnership with Saint Paul University, the Archdiocese of Regina, St. Thomas More College and others. It will be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
“It’s to bring the two sides together,” said Myron Rogal, chair of the organizing committee in Saskatoon. “This is looking at how we can carry on to a future where all people have access to sustainable clean drinking water.”
He noted that rarely does a conversation about solutions to ecological justice issues, such as access to clean drinking water, contain both indigenous and non-indigenous voices.
To target an audience of Catholic post-secondary students, JPIC spokesperson Ashley Russell said they are relying primarily on their partners at St. Thomas More College, the archdiocese and the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools for their alumni, staff and senior students.
Representing the indigenous side will be Lyndon Linklater from the Office of the Treaty Commission, who is expected to be accompanied be several young aboriginal adults.
Bringing Catholics and First Nations together to tackle ecological challenges is one way to start the reconciliation process, she said.
“This is a way that we are journeying in our process of reconciliation with indigenous people as Catholics,” said Russell. “(Pope Francis) puts forth this idea of creating our common home and it is kind of existence that we need in that we all need to care for the earth. It’s not that caring for the earth is just an indigenous way of life it is something that we all need to reorient ourselves.”
The day-long event kicks off with a discussion between Bert Pitzel, social justice co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Regina, and local author Trevor Herriott, who recently penned Towards a Prairie Atonement. Regina’s Archbishop Don Bolen will also speak at the event.
“Once people have soaked in that information they will be breaking into small groups and going into a process which is aimed at empowering,” said Rogal. “We hope to have a call-to-action letter that comes out of that (process) that our different partner organizations can post as a statement if they choose to do so.”
Rogal hopes the symposium is just the start of further collaboration with First Nations.
“The hope is to continually set up a space where healthy dialogue can happen, where people aren’t afraid to ask question that may be a bit confrontational and that there is a time for people to fall in love with creation,” said Rogal.