Siloam Mission is announcing the departure of CEO Jim Bell after recent allegations of cultural insensitivity were brought against the organization.
At the very beginning of the year, January 6, Bell alongside Siloam Mission released a 4-page statement defending itself against the allegations that the mission was blocking Indigenous cultural activity and programming that had the potential to bring healing. Roughly half of the population of people that come to Siloam are Indigenous.
A group called Not My Siloam, created by former employees and supporters of the mission, said that it wants Bell to resign or be removed and for the board to be reorganized, with "Mechanisms of accountability for leadership moving forward."
In 2017, Siloam Mission signed the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord. In the report, the organization also admits it failed to provide written follow-ups to the Accord in 2019 and 2020. This was all in Siloam Mission's January statement.
Siloam Mission acknowledged they are indeed a Christian organization in its January response, but says that it doesn't stand in the way of providing needed services to people at Siloam from various faith backgrounds.
On February 11, 2021, Siloam Mission released a media report that says, "while we transition to a new phase in our organization, we are announcing the departure of CEO, Jim Bell."
"In light of recent criticism, we asked ourselves as a Board, how can we actively do better in serving our patrons, half of whom are Indigenous," says newly elected Board Chair, Garth Manness, CEO of Credit Union Central of Manitoba in the release. "Today, as we commit to walking a collaborative path toward Reconciliation and healing, we acknowledge our mistakes and thank so many for helping us learn and grow as individuals and as an organization."
There has not been another CEO announced at this time. In the interim, the Board of Directors will provide oversight of management operations.
"We are grateful to Jim for his many contributions over the past four years," says Manness, "including his efforts in helping successfully conclude our ‘Make Room’ capital campaign that led to the opening of the Buhler Centre. We thank Jim for guiding the initiatives that will better serve people who are homeless and vulnerable in Winnipeg."
The mission is announcing plans to develop and launch a comprehensive Indigenous Relations Strategy, led by a respected external consultant, Crystal Laborero of Laborero Consulting.
Laborero Consulting will engage the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in discussions that will focus on, but not be limited to:
- Developing a formal Statement of Reconciliation, based on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
- Acting to fulfill Siloam’s commitments in the City’s Indigenous Accord, including creating an Indigenous Advisory Council
- Establishing a Knowledge Keeper’s Circle
- Exploring board governance and diversification
- Introducing Indigenous training and development
- Establishing an accountability process to monitor and ensure progress
- Developing actionable steps in response to the cultural competency study
- Undertaking a reconciliation process with staff/others who expressed concerns
"The success of Siloam, over the long-term, will be based on our ability to love, honour and listen to patrons, staff, key stakeholders and the broad community in a spirit of Reconciliation. Of equal importance, we must take action and that is what we are committed to doing as part of this serious effort," says Manness.