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Indigenous and church leaders applaud repudiation of ‘Doctrine of Discovery’


First Nations and Catholic Church officials in Algoma are calling the Vatican's repudiation of the ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ an important step toward reconciliation.

They also said the announcement from the Vatican will likely have far-reaching implications for Indigenous people and governments around the world.

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers said the statement also calls into question the Canadian government's assumption of jurisdiction, which he said is grounded in the Doctrine of Discovery.

"If the Doctrine of Discovery is being repudiated and it's being rescinded, the foundation of Canada's legal framework is illegal," said Sayers.

"We have to begin the transition of returning the lands to the owners. You just don't go into someone's yard and say 'this is mine because I declare it.'"

Last year, Pope Francis issued an apology to Canada's Indigenous people for the Catholic Church's role in residential schools.

Bishop Thomas Dowd of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie said like that apology, the formal repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery is born out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"And that's what the document today says," said Dowd, adding that rather than rescinding the doctrine, the Vatican is taking a stronger tone in repudiating it.

"That one word is the critical piece in my view that differentiates this from previous statements."

"I see this as a step forward," he continued. "It's one step, and it opens the door for a new conversation on relationships between all kinds of communities and First Nations."

"This helps with being able to give some healing, to help with closure," added Sayers.

Dowd said he's pleased by the recent accelerated pace of the Church's acceptance of historical truths.

Sayers, meantime, said this latest statement from the Vatican means more discussions with the federal and provincial governments about jurisdiction. Top Stories

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