From our Bishop:

Our church has consciously chosen to walk the path of reconciliation, enabling Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to form relationships based on mutual respect. Reconciliation is a way of life and many efforts across our diocese to stay on the path and enliven it are commendable. 

About 20 years ago, Inuit from Baffin Island were redirected to Ottawa (instead of Montreal) for advanced medical treatments. It is not uncommon to meet an Inuk or to see Inuit families in the city: some live here permanently, some come and go from the North, and others are here for extended periods of time for medical treatments for themselves or family members.

According to the 2021 Canadian census, there are about 46,565 Indigenous People living in Ottawa-Gatineau and approximately 1,730 are Inuit. Many local Inuit question the accuracy of this number—suggesting it is 3,000 or as high as 6,000 (the reporting of urban Indigenous Populations in Canadian cities is notoriously unreliable). In any event, our diocese likely holds the largest population of Inuit outside the North. Many have a direct or indirect connection to the Anglican Church—and many know there is an Inuit congregation at Saint Margaret’s Church in Vanier, served by the only Inuit Anglican priest in active ministry south of the Diocese of the Arctic.

St Margaret’s operates as one parish with two distinct congregations. The Reverend Canon Aigah Attagutsiak serves as the Associate Incumbent at Saint Margaret’s, alongside the Incumbent, the Reverend Colin McFarland. The Inuit congregation functions in Inuktitut, and gathers weekly for Sunday Eucharist and, between September and June, hosts a Sunday Community Meal for parishioners, neighbours, and visitors—as well as large Inuit Community Feasts at Christmas, Easter and Nunavut Day. 

Canon Aigah is an integral part of her large family (she is a great-grandmother) and is central to the administrative, liturgical, pastoral and educational ministries of the Inuit congregation at St Margaret’s. Inuit parishioners take part in the governance of St Margaret’s as a whole, and many are heavily involved in providing services and support to Inuit families and neighbours in the regional Inuit community. Serving the wider Inuit community is also a major part of Canon Aigah’s ministry, as she is a highly visible elder and community leader. 

This work is extensive, involving pastoral care to hospital patients and their families residing temporarily in Ottawa, to seniors who have moved here for long term care, and to the loved ones of people who have died in shelters or on the streets. It also involves serving on many Inuit-related committees, boards, and working groups concerned with the well-being of Inuit in the national capital region as a whole. 

Our diocese provides full funding for Canon Aigah’s position, which makes it possible to have an Inuit congregation at St Margaret’s. However, the demands of Inuit ministry in Ottawa are far greater than one person can meet, especially without any Inuktitut-language administrative support. 

As we mark National Indigenous Peoples Day in June, I will be convening a consultation to review our approach to Inuit ministry, at St Margaret’s and beyond, and to consider how we ought to respond to a clear call to serve a sizeable population who, because of our church’s historic relationship with Inuit in the Arctic, look to us for pastoral care, community, and support. The path of reconciliation continues to beckon us, and I know we have a will to follow it in ever-changing ways.

The Right Reverend Shane Parker
Bishop of Ottawa

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