Federal Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale has agreed to take an offer by the Anglican group negotiating with Ottawa over liability for native residential schools to the federal Cabinet. The Anglican offer was made this week and caps two years of negotiations with Ottawa.
It will be the first time that the federal Cabinet actually considers a specific Anglican proposal.
In another development, a Calgary judge on Thursday dismissed lawsuits against the Anglican Church of Canada by people who claimed abuse in residential schools, saying there is “no evidence of direct involvement by the General Synod.”
Justice Terrence McMahon of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, said only the church’s Missionary Society could be named in native residential schools lawsuits, since it was the body that signed contracts with the federal government to run the schools.
The judge dismissed all claims against General Synod and against the Anglican dioceses of Calgary between 1919 and 1969 and Athabasca between 1923 and 1969.
The decision by Mr. Goodale, the minister representing Ottawa in talks with the Anglican church, to take the Anglican offer to Cabinet was announced to General Synod staff by Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate, and Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of General Synod. Mr. Boyles has been leading the Anglican negotiations.
Archbishop Peers said Anglican negotiators had no indication of precisely when their offer would actually be considered by Cabinet. The terms of the offer remain confidential until Cabinet has considered them.
If Cabinet accepts the offer, Mr. Boyles said, it would then be submitted to each of the church’s 30 dioceses for ratification. “It’s going to be some time before we can say this (negotiation with Ottawa) is done and finished,” Mr. Boyles said.
Concerning the Calgary decision, Mr. Boyles said the church still wants to find a way “in which the Anglican bodies involved can make a legitimate contribution to settlements and continue to work in healing and reconciliation with aboriginal communities.”
The federal government has said that there are now about 5,000 lawsuits representing more than 12,000 plaintiffs concerning treatment they received in native residential schools.
The schools existed from the mid 19th century until the 1970s. The Anglican church was involved in operating 26 of the 80 schools.