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In darkness, dwell

By April Klassen, 4th-year Interdisciplinary Studies: Community Development

This past semester I had the opportunity to walk with the Bear Clan Patrol as the practicum for my Community Development degree. The Bear Clan Patrol embodies an Indigenous-led, community-based approach to crime prevention activated by patrolling the streets of Winnipeg’s North End five nights per week. It began as a response to the tragedy of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The Bear Clan Patrol has many different responsibilities, including collecting needles, handing out care packages, providing safewalks, and being a friendly and positive presence.

April Klassen and the Bear Clan Patrol
CMU student April Klassen with a group joining the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg’s North End.

The Bear Clan Patrol is often requested to marshal various memorials or marches. I recently participated in one such memorial, this time a candlelight vigil and march held in honour and memory of Marilyn Rose Munroe. Rose was found murdered one year ago and her death remains a cold case to this day. The vigil was hosted by Rose’s family and friends, who shared stories and sang songs as we held candles and walked the length of the North End neighbourhood.

I had never participated in a vigil before, nor do I know anyone who has been murdered. I have never had to fear for my life, nor the lives of my family and friends, and I have no reason to think that this should ever be a part of my reality. Yet as we walked, in silence, holding candles in the darkness, I thought about what this experience must be like for my fellow patrol members.

I looked at Sara, the quiet, funny, smart, young Indigenous woman walking next to me who is about my age and lives in the North End. Statistically speaking, Sara has likely been to many vigils and probably knows more than one person who has gone missing or been murdered.

As we walked I wondered what it was like for her to participate in such an event, knowing that it is not out of the realm of possibility that someday she might hold a vigil for her sister, her mother, her daughter—or that one might be held for her! Or, what was it like for her boyfriend and his buddies, who walked just a few steps behind us? Did they fear for the women in their lives, for their sisters and mothers and daughters and partners, or have people become so accustomed to the horror and tragedy that it has become normalized? Did bystanders see the vigil as a sign of resistance, of resilience, something to be celebrated or, was it simply a visible reminder of the pain and death faced by so many families in the community?

The strength that it takes to face the darkness, to stand on the sidewalk and acknowledge the hurt of your community, of your people, of your nation—this is a strength to which I aspire. It would be a vast understatement to state there is darkness in the North End. The history of Canada and of its Indigenous people is very dark, and its legacy continues today. If we are to seek reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we need to step into that darkness. For me, that step was literal, as I spent six hours of each week with a flashlight walking the poorly lit North End streets.

This darkness is a hard place to be in, and it can be scary at times. One incredible thing I’ve learned is that communities like the North End, and all the diverse Indigenous people and nations of this land, already live in this space. That particular night we walked in darkness because a member of that community had been murdered, and as a community, we created a light that pushed against that darkness.

A first step toward reconciliation will be releasing our tight grip on our comfortable, safely-lit lives and stepping into the darkness. When we get there we will realize that we do not dwell in the darkness alone.

The longer we spend there and the more often we return, the more we will find ourselves becoming a part of the community, welcomed by their embodiment of God’s transformative power, to participate in the redemption of this world.

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Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Video

Face2Face | Journey to Renewed Covenants​ (video)

The ​Manitoba Screening of ‘Reserve 107: Reconciliation on the Prairies’ with Director Brad Leitch took place on September 23, 2016 and was followed by audience conversation with film participants.

Panelists:

  • Barb and Wilmer Froese of Laird, SK
  • Ray Funk of Prince Albert, SK
  • Chief George Kingfisher, hereditary chief of the Young Chippewayan First Nation
  • Brad Leitch

Indigenous rights and title to the land remain a taboo topic for many across Canada, but in the small town of Laird, SK, an old injustice is providing new opportunities for dialogue, friendship and a fierce determination to right the wrongs of the past. In 2006, 130 years after the signing of Treaty 6, Mennonites, Lutherans, and the Young Chippewayan First Nation gathered on the sacred hill of Stoney Knoll / Opwashemoe Chakatinaw located in Laird where, with goodwill and shared goals, they signed a memorandum of understanding. ‘Reserve 107’ captures the spirit of these renewed relationships.

At the closing ceremony of Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival the jury stated “’Reserve 107′ spoke exceptionally well to our generation. We have grown up learning about indigenous affairs and the value of righting the foundation of our friendship. Through 32 minutes we are shown two groups of people speaking at solutions and actually acting on them together, capturing the raw passion for structural change in a respectful and educated manner is one of the many reasons as to why this film has earned honourable mention for the Nigel Moore Award.”

Explore the meaning, relevance, and power Treaties signed over 100 years ago still have today. Consider more deeply, in a time of ‘truth and reconciliation’, how opportunities for renewed understanding, humility and respect might lead us to new covenants and mutual healing.

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Video

Indigenous Education Blueprint Signing Ceremony (video)

CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards photo: University of Manitoba
CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards
photo: University of Manitoba

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is proud to announce its participation in the Indigenous Education Blueprint as part of Manitoba’s education sector.

CMU joined five other Manitoba universities, three colleges, and the Manitoba School Boards Association in a landmark signing of the Indigenous Education Blueprint on December 18.

Working together in unprecedented fashion, the participating institutions developed and are now committed to the plan, which acts upon the recommendations the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented this past summer.

The Blueprint commits the participating institutions to concrete practices in order to respect, celebrate, and support Indigenous peoples, knowledge, and success.

For more information about the event and the author, please see the related news release.

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Events General News News Releases

CMU part of historic commitment to advancing Indigenous education and reconciliation

Manitoba’s education sector units in effort to follow Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) joined five other Manitoba universities, three colleges, and the Manitoba School Boards Association in a landmark signing of the Indigenous Education Blueprint on December 18.

CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards photo: University of Manitoba
CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards
photo: University of Manitoba

Working together in unprecedented fashion, the participating institutions developed and are now committed to the plan, which acts upon the recommendations the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented this past summer.

The Blueprint commits the participating institutions to concrete practices in order to respect, celebrate, and support Indigenous peoples, knowledge, and success.

“The story has always been told by someone else. Now it’s your turn, and today we honour that,” Elder Harry Bone said during his opening remarks at the signing ceremony.

Steven Heinrichs, Director of Indigenous Relations with Mennonite Church Canada, was in attendance to witness the signing.

“CMU took an amazing step today in the pursuit of right relations with host peoples,” Heinrichs said. “This isn’t only good for Indigenous peoples. It can help us settlers in the paths of decolonization and bring us life. I’m looking forward to seeing how CMU will grow into this.”

Indigenous Education Blueprint_037
CMU President Cheryl Pauls signs the Indigenous Education Blueprint alongside Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology President & CEO Paul Holden
photo: University of Manitoba

CMU President Cheryl Pauls participated in the signing ceremony on behalf of the university.

She cites a number of events and initiatives, such as CMU’s partnership with the Peguis First Nation post-secondary transition program and hosting of community forums to discuss the possibilities of an urban reserve at the Kapyong Barracks, as examples where CMU has already cultivated Indigenous-settler relationships.

“We are proud to be a part of this historic commitment,” Pauls said. “CMU’s mission statement places significant importance on reconciliation in our church and society. Through education, reconciliation can be fostered, understood, and turned into a new reality.”

Moving ahead, there will be numerous all-faculty conversations at CMU to engage the Indigenous Education Blueprint.

These conversations will identify opportunities where programs and courses can be enlivened in light of the Blueprint, particularly within Peace and Conflict Studies at CMU’s Shaftesbury campus and Conflict Resolution Studies at the Menno Simons College campus in downtown Winnipeg.

In addition to CMU, the educational partners that signed the historic Blueprint include: University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Brandon University, Université de Saint-Boniface, University College of the North, Red River College, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Assiniboine Community College, and Manitoba School Boards Association.

BY SIGNING THE INDIGENOUS EDUCATION BLUEPRINT, CMU and OTHER SIGNATORIES COMMIT TO:

  1. Engaging with Indigenous peoples in respectful and reciprocal relationships and to realize the right to self-determination, and to advance reconciliation, language and culture through education, research and skill development;
  2. IEBBringing Indigenous knowledge, languages and intellectual traditions, models and approaches into curriculum and pedagogy;
  3. Promoting research and learning that reflects the history and contemporary context of the lives of Indigenous peoples;
  4. Increasing access to services, programs, and supports to Indigenous students, to ensure a learning environment is established that fosters learner success;
  5. Collaborating to increase student mobility to better serve the needs of Indigenous students;
  6. Building school and campus communities that are free of racism, value diversity and foster cultural safety;
  7. Increasing and measuring Indigenous school and post-secondary participation and success rates;
  8. Showcasing successes of Indigenous students and educators;
  9. Reflecting the diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures in Manitoba through institutional governance and staffing policies and practices; and
  10. Engaging governments and the private and public sectors to increase labour market opportunities for Indigenous graduates.

Media coverage of December 18 signing:
Winnipeg Free Press, CBC, Globe and Mail, The Metro News, CJOB AM 680The Brandon Sun

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About CMU

A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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Events News Releases

Youth Learn About Indigenous and Settler Relations at Peace It Together Conference

“A Meeting Place: Hearing God in Indigenous Voices” was the topic of Peace It Together (PIT) 2015, Canadian Mennonite University’s youth conference, which took place October 23-25, 2015.

The conference focused on making Biblical and Anabaptist themes of peace and justice relevant for today.

Seventy-five youth, youth sponsors, and pastors from across Canada gathered to hear stories from Indigenous and settler speakers, participate in acts of peace, and build new friendships.

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The KAIROS blanket exercise, facilitated by MCC Canada’s Sue Eagle and Miriam Sainnawap with MCC Canada, kicked off the national youth conference

“It was a very valuable experience to be surrounded by likeminded people,” says Marnie Klassen, a grade 12 student from Abbotsford, BC. “It was so good to have meaningful conversations in an open space—to be open to questioning with both head and heart.”

The weekend began with the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, a workshop that explores the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Sue Eagle and Miriam Sainnawap, coordinators of Indigenous Neighbours with MCC Canada, led the workshop, which helps participants understand how the colonization of land impacts those were here before settlers arrived.

Steve Heinrichs, Director of Indigenous Relations at Mennonite Church Canada, and his daughter Abby, shared about settler colonialism and the importance of learning the stories of both Indigenous and settler peoples.

“If you want to love someone, you need to know their story. If you want to know someone, you need to learn their story,” said Heinrichs.

IMG_4463
Larry Monkman, an elder with the council of elders at Winnipeg’s Circle of Life Thunderbird House speaks to PIT participants

Christy Anderson (CMU ’11) shared about the impact colonialism has on her life as an inter-generational Residential School Survivor.

Clairissa Kelly and Wayne Mason spoke about the Peguis First Nation Indigenous Transition Program that CMU is hosting this year. Kelly, Mason, and Della Mason sang ceremonial songs of healing, love, and thankfulness.

Participants had the opportunity to take part in one of six ‘acts of peace’ including: learning about seed-saving at the CMU Farm; learning about solidarity activism and creating a solidarity activism art peace; going on a prayer walk through the Canadian Museum for Human Rights; hearing from an elder at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House; visiting Indigenous Family Centre and beading medicine bags; or learning about Christian Peacemaker Teams’ work on Turtle Island.

Activities such as square dancing, outdoor games, karaoke, and a scavenger hunt provided additional opportunities for youth to get to know each other.

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PIT participants discussed how to take what was learned and apply the lessons to their daily lives

Krista Loewen, Associate Pastor of Wildwood Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, SK, says “Attending PIT reignited a passion for justice within me as a peacebuilder. I was reminded that working to build relationships with my Indigenous neighbours is integral to my faith and how I feel called to live in this world as a follower of Christ.”
The weekend closed with a sharing circle, providing participants with an opportunity to speak about what they will take away from the conference.

“I am inspired and challenged to go home to a place whose land I know it should be, to step out of my comfort zone, and to build relationships,” says Klassen.

Youth from Wildwood Mennonite Church also attended: “My youth were pushed to reimagine the history and legacy of Mennonites in Canada—most notably having to reconcile the fact that Mennonites were given stolen Indigenous land to farm and live to this day,” says Loewen.

“The youth were also challenged to emotionally connect to this topic that they had learned about in school…and hopefully use their thoughts and emotions to inspire others to consider their relationships with their Indigenous neighbours.”

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program. 

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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Video

“From Truth to Reconciliation” with Rt. Hon. Joe Clark (video)

A conversation with Rt. Hon. Joe Clark on reconciliation with aboriginal peoples, presented byCanadian Mennonite University and MCC Manitoba.

Recorded on Saturday, October 18, 2015.

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Articles Student Profiles

Finding Peace in Unexpected Places

Studies at CMU inspire Congolese pastors to work toward reconciliation

If they weren’t studying together at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Theo Muthumwa and Shadrack Mutabazi would be adversaries.

The local pastors are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They survived ethnic violence and traumatic civil war in their homeland, years of exile elsewhere in the region, and arriving in Canada as immigrants. Both study Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies (PACTS) at CMU.

While they have much in common, Muthumwa is part of the Bantu majority from the eastern Congo, while Mutabazi is from the Banyamulenge minority. The differing peoples have a history of mistrust and war against one another.

Today, the two are working toward peace and reconciliation between their peoples.

Theo Muthumwa (left) and Shadrack Mutabazi (right)
Theo Muthumwa (left) and Shadrack Mutabazi (right)

Their paths first crossed during an introductory PACTS course at CMU.  Through periodic classroom discussions, their ethnic identities were revealed to each other, and with every in-class encounter they shared more stories, becoming close friends in the process.

“We are now telling (our) stories,” Muthumwa says. “If we didn’t talk, we would finish at CMU and I would think (Mutabazi) is my enemy.”

“We believe that leaders are servants of God who can be ambassadors of reconciliation to bring people together … and yet some of our colleagues are preaching the gospel of division,” Mutabazi adds.

Muthumwa says the two have a mission to promote peace and reconciliation because the Bible instructs them to do so in Matthew 9.

“It’s also the mission of CMU,” he says. “It has shaped us.”

Both came to CMU to study Theology, but they found PACTS inspiring.

Ultimately, it’s equipping them to work toward peace and reconciliation between their peoples.

“Banyamulenge in eastern Congo have a reputation of being people who bring trouble,” says Muthumwa, who is a Bantu. He has faced persecution, attempted murder, and ultimately exile for denouncing Congolese marginalization of the Banyamulenge, and for vocally renouncing his own people’s violence and hatred toward them.

As a Banyamulenge, Mutabazi has lost loved ones to horrific violence. After fleeing war-torn East Congo, he lived in exile in Rwanda for 10 years and in Uganda for five.

“I lost both my parents in the war,” he  says. “We have wounds in our hearts because of the war.”

After arriving in Canada as immigrants in the late 2000s, both felt unable to speak about their past and who they are, even as they read about events in the Congo and saw images of their homeland.

“So many Canadians don’t know our struggle,” Muthumwa says.

As ministers, both have planted churches while in the Congo, while in exile, and now in Canada as well.

In Winnipeg, Mutabazi started Shalom Christian Outreach and Muthumwa founded Philadelphia Miracle, both congregations serving Africans,  immigrants, and Canadian citizens.

They believe that telling their story is crucial to finding unity and forgiveness.

That doesn’t make it easy, though. Mutabazi recalls the time he stopped attending classes for a week after hearing a lecturer’s stories of ethnic genocide, which triggered his own memories of violence and left him in shock.

“These are deep, deep wounds,” Mutabazi says, emphasizing that facing the future requires truly understanding the past.

Theo and Shadrack“CMU is helping us to speak of where we have come from, where we are now – digging for knowledge and learning – and planning now for our future to go and meet survivors and help bring them together for reconciliation.”

Bringing unity to their people is a difficult process, but Mutabazi and Muthumwa have watched young people create space through music.

Mutabazi’s children joined other Congolese congregations to form a band that now regularly plays at Congolese church services and events across the city, bringing together communities that otherwise have little contact.

“(In Congo), people are using the youth for fighting. Let us use our youth and our leaders to have a dialogue,” Mutabazi says.

After seeing the potential significance of their work for the greater African community, Mutabazi and Muthumwa started Reconciliation Initiatives and Healing for African People.

“Our goal is not to end here, it is to also go back home. We have so many spiritual leaders not aware of peace,” Muthumwa says. “The studies we got from CMU are a bridge. We want to start first with those Congolese here, to create a sense of dialogue, and to create also dialogue in Africa.”

They also look with hope to the greater Winnipeg community.

“Most people here, we’ve found, are listeners – they want to listen to our stories, but we want them to go to the next step,” Muthumwa explains.

“Your grandparents came to Canada and they struggled. We are also facing these kinds of struggles – being in a new place, no family, no one to show you what to do. It’s not easy for us. We need people to welcome us.”

Photos and story by Matthew Veith (CMU ’13)

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Events Lectures News Releases

Urban reserves subject of next Face2Face community discussion at CMU

‘This is an opportunity to think about how we can go forward in a more respectful way,’ professor says

A First Nations leader who has promised to set up five urban reserves in Winnipeg within the next two years will speak at Canadian Mennonite University during a discussion about urban reserves.

Terry Nelson, Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, is one of the panelists at Canadian Mennonite University’s next Face2Face discussion. Hosted by Dr. Jarem Sawatsky, Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at CMU, the event is titled, “On Being Good Neighbours: Urban Reserves in Winnipeg.”

The event happens Thursday, March 27 at 7:00 PM in CMU’s Great Hall (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.). Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. Face2Face is a series of conversations with CMU faculty designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life.

Dr. Jarem Sawatsky, Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies at CMU
Dr. Jarem Sawatsky, Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies at CMU

Sawatsky says he likes Nelson’s idea to develop urban reserves because he sees it as an opportunity for non-First Nations Canadians to be good neighbours to First Nations Canadians.

“This is an opportunity to think about how we can go forward in a more respectful way,” Sawatsky says. “So much of the land in and around Winnipeg has been promised as treaty land at some point. First Nations people have been waiting around a long time to get their land. For us to figure out how to extend friendship to the First Nations people who were here before us seems to be a good plan.”

Joining Sawatsky and Nelson on the panel are: Dennis Meeches, Chief of Long Plain First Nation; Deanna Zantingh, a student from CMU’s Graduate School of Theology with an interest in indigenous relations; Kenton Lobe, Instructor in International Development Studies at CMU; and Jeffrey Ansloos, a Canadian born Cree PhD student of Clinical Psychology at Fuller School of Psychology in Pasadena, CA.

Sawatsky hopes that the event will build confidence in the idea of creating urban reserves.

“I think some people have questions and concerns about an urban reserve in their backyard, and some of them have nobody to ask those questions—First Nations people are not people they have a relationship with, so they don’t know how to pursue those questions,” Sawatsky says. “We’re trying to build a space where people can pursue the questions they have.”

“On Being Good Neighbours: Urban Reserves in Winnipeg” is the last of six Face2Face events CMU will host during the 2013-14 school year. For details, please visit www.cmu.ca/face2face.

About CMU

A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry.

CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury Campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

For information about CMU, visit:
www.cmu.ca

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2