Government and church negotiators have drawn up a 29-page draft agreement on limiting church liability concerning Indian residential schools, but a final agreement has not yet been reached, according to General Synod general secretary, Archdeacon Jim Boyles.
Negotiators last met in Vancouver in mid-August.
Issues that remain to be decided include ?claims that touch on language and culture and the level of contribution to settlements that the Anglican church might be able to make,? Mr. Boyles said in an interview.
In the two-year-long series of talks, church representatives have asked for a way to address claims that the government-owned, church-operated schools resulted in a loss of native language and culture. Some settlements have been paid over the past few years to former students who could prove abuse, but no court has yet recognized cultural claims.
About 12,000 plaintiffs have sued the federal government and various entities of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, United and Presbyterian churches. According to government estimates, the total claims payout could reach $1 billion.
The government has agreed to pay 70 per cent of proven claims, which would leave churches responsible for about $300 million. Under one formula, the Anglican church, which ran about one-quarter of the schools, could be responsible for about 20 per cent, or $60 million, which could be paid out over about 10 years.
However, General Synod, which expects revenue from diocesan contributions to reach about $9 million in 2003, would find that difficult to afford, the church has said. Finance director Jim Cullen, at a staff briefing, said ?we do need an agreement soon or we start running into trouble.?
General Synod?s legal costs run at about $100,000 per month and the national church office will be down to $400,000 in liquid assets by the end of 2002, he said. Legal costs have been paid out of assets, while dioceses and parishioners have been assured that ongoing contributions are used for programs.
If an agreement is reached with the government, the church expects to embark on a major fund-raising campaign. ?We would need some up-front money for settlements. We would see an increased emphasis on financial development,? said Mr. Boyles.