The United Church of Canada Archives holds records of the General Council Office, as well as the Ontario Regional Councils. These archival records contain historical documents created and accumulated by people of a variety of backgrounds and identities. Many records were created by culturally dominant groups and peoples who have traditionally held power over Indigenous peoples, racialized peoples, and diverse minority groups. A legacy of colonization, racism, ableism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, and other prejudices may be found throughout the records in language ‘of the day’; including outdated cultural references, stereotypes, or problematic wording that is no longer used or considered appropriate.
In keeping with traditional Archival practice, records have been left in their original form to preserve the context in which they were created and allow users to critically review and assess them. As such, users may encounter language that is offensive or harmful. This historic content contained in the records does not reflect the contemporary views of The United Church of Canada, which has recently adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and the Calls to the Church as the basis for a new relationship. The United Church has committed to becoming an intercultural church and to becoming an anti-racist denomination. It welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into full membership and ministry in the church. The church has also committed to becoming an open, accessible, and barrier-free church, where there is full participation of people with disabilities, and remains opposed to discrimination of any kind on the basis of identity.
The Archives staff have made a commitment to systematically review, identify and acknowledge language of colonization, prejudice, racism and sexism within archival descriptions (in the descriptions of records in the Archives). Staff will work to replace any outdated, racist or otherwise inappropriate language in our descriptions with contemporary language and context, while recognizing that terminology changes over time. In making these decisions, the Archives is striving to work towards align itself with the commitment of the United Church on equity.
Users are encouraged to provide feedback to the Archives by contacting us.
While there are no archival standards in place for this work, the Archives appreciate and recommend the resources created by other colleagues, such as:
- “Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources” by the Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia’s Anti-Racist Description Working Group, October 2019.
- “Archiving Hate: Racist Materials in Archives” by Melissa Nelson, March 2020.
- “Between duty to remember and imperatives of reconciliation: Procedures for Writing Culturally Sensitive Titles for Descriptions of Indigenous Materials at Library and Archives Canada” presentation by Dominque Foisy-Geoffroy of Library and Archives Canada, October 2019.
- “Challenging Colonial Spaces: Reconciliation and Decolonizing Work in Canadian Archives” by Krista McCracken, June 2019.
- The Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives Response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Taskforce [major resource forthcoming]