FIRST NATIONS AND SANCTUARY NORTH
Sanctuary North sits on Algonquin land that is part of an ongoing land claim. We honour and respect the indigenous rights to reclaim the land. A Sanctuary North working group was formed in 2018 to explore the current context and to build connections more generally between refugees and indigenous peoples, both at SN and in the City of Toronto. At Sanctuary North, we firmly believe Canada can only be fully understood by recognizing its historical role in the destruction of indigenous rights and oppression of indigenous peoples, and that our future as a country will be defined by reconciliation, respect and collaboration. We recognize parallels between the experiences of refugees and the experiences of Canada’s indigenous Peoples, particularly through the history of displacement. We are committed to building meaningful connections to indigenous communities and perspectives into the Sanctuary North experience as part of the realization of our inclusive vision of community.
The initial vision that led to the creation of Sanctuary North came from Mary Jo Leddy of Romero House, Michael Creal and Lee Davis Creal of Holy Trinity, and members of their respective communities. Their idea was for refugees and their allies to spend time together in a safe, rural setting where they could enrich their experience of Canada, commune with nature and build community. In 2001, the current property was found in a wilderness area on the York River, not far from Algonquin Park. Funding to buy the property came from the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Sisters of St Joseph in Peterborough and the MacLaughlin Foundation. The cost of maintaining the property and sustaining the organization come from a loyal group of donors, and occasionally through project specific grants.
Each year, since 2001, members of the community have shared responsibility for maintaining the property, and each year, in addition to basic maintenance of the road, the buildings and stewardship of the land, volunteers have thoughtfully and respectfully made improvements – building a dock, tent platforms, bunkies, outhouses. More recently, community members undertook the construction of a permanent gazebo and the renovation of the front screened in porch to allow for larger groups to share a meal looking over the river.
Sanctuary North has no paid staff – we govern and manage the organization and the property through the shared energy, talents and commitment of our member organizations, as well as many community members who first came as refugees and continue to give back to and sustain this wonderful place. Each year, there are ideas about how to enrich the Sanctuary North experience and maximize the use of the property over the summer and fall – new groups, new projects, new ideas to bring people together. If you are interested in becoming part of the community in any capacity, please contact us for more information.
In 2009, Cottage Life Magazine published an article featuring Sanctuary North. Little has changed in the ensuing years - no added grandeur, just respectful stewardship of the land and thoughtful maintenance and enhancement of the cottage and surrounds. Creative minds explore ideas for our future - harvesting syrup from the many maples on the property, theme-based visits, bringing groups together who don’t normally have the chance to connect, strengthening connections before and beyond the Sanctuary North experience. The shared story of Sanctuary North continues to be written.