Mennonite Church Canada transitions Indigenous-Settler Relations program

Program to move to regional churches for engagement




Mennonite Church Canada is transitioning its Indigenous-Settler Relations (ISR) program to the five regional churches that make up its nationwide community of faith.

The decision comes out of Joint Council meetings (April 9-10) in which the need for ISR to have regionally based expression across Mennonite Church Canada was affirmed.

“Since Mennonite Church Canada’s restructuring in 2017, our work has been to activate engagement with nationwide ministries within our regional churches and their congregations,” says Calvin Quan, moderator of Mennonite Church Canada.

“The strong regional and congregational ISR efforts being developed across our regional churches mean we can now shift toward supporting these efforts rather than leading them,” he says.

Due to the creation of a part-time associate executive minister position and a part-time climate action position at Mennonite Church Canada, and the shift towards regional expression, the nationwide ISR position will be reduced to 0.5 FTE.

The full-time ISR program director position ended on April 11, 2022. Steve Heinrichs, who has served in this role for ten-and-a-half years, will no longer continue in the position. Heinrichs will remain for a short time to conclude current projects and help transition relationships with ecumenical and nationwide partners.

“I am incredibly grateful to Mennonite Church Canada for the opportunity to serve in this role,” says Heinrichs. “I have learned so much, and I pray that I have also shared and given much. Though my time in this office has ended, the work continues, and it’s never been more urgent. Indigenous peoples have called the church to paths of truth-telling, repair and reconciliation. I think we’ve made a difference. And with growing courage and risk, we can make an even greater difference.”

Moving forward, the ISR position at Mennonite Church Canada will focus primarily on information sharing and collaboration between regional church ISR working groups. It will also facilitate resourcing on Indigenous justice issues and relationship-building with Indigenous communities in the regions.

Heinrichs has worked with each of the ISR working groups, encouraging regional and local engagement with Indigenous justice issues and communities. He leaves behind a host of initiatives, campaigns and publications from his time with Mennonite Church Canada. Former MP Romeo Saganash acknowledged in a recent interview Heinrichs’ mobilization of the Mennonite Church community around Bill C-262 and Bill C-15, which passed last June, ensuring that Canadian law is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

More recently, Heinrichs led Mennonite Church Canada’s first community learning series on decolonization and decarbonization, at a time when Mennonite Church Canada recently answered calls to acknowledge and prioritize its response to the climate emergency.

Indigenous-Settler Relations has been a nationwide program priority for Mennonite Church Canada since 1959, when it was called Mennonite Pioneer Mission. In 1973 it became Native Ministries, then changed to Indigenous Relations in 2012 and ISR in 2017.


Media contact:

Katie Doke Sawatzky