Church advises dioceses of short deadline in schools agreement

By on December 27, 2005

Canada’s 30 Anglican dioceses are under pressure to approve a revised Indian residential schools settlement agreement with the federal government by Jan. 30, 2006, although national church officials are trying to obtain an extension of the deadline. “We are aware of the difficulties involved in trying to meet the deadline set by the government and we will do all we can to support you as you deal with due process in your own jurisdictions. We sincerely hope that all dioceses will be able to approve the … agreement based on the benefit that will flow to all dioceses and to the General Synod,” read an information letter dated Dec. 21, 2005, from Acting General Secretary Ellie Johnson and other negotiators. The letter was sent to all diocesan bishops and chancellors (church legal advisers), members of the church’s national governing body, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, a national committee. The document reiterated the terms of a plan announced in late November that would compensate all students who were part of a national boarding school system aimed at educating native children. Also announced was an agreement that would release Roman Catholic entities that ran schools from legal liability, but would commit them to funding $54 million in healing programs for aboriginals. The Anglican church in 2003 negotiated a cap on its legal liability of $25 million, but since the Roman Catholic agreement is more favorable, is reopening its negotiations with the government. It is likely that the Anglican cap will be reduced to about $5.771 million, an amount based on a proportional formula from the Roman Catholic agreement. The Anglican church would also be required to contribute about $4.975 million in cash toward healing programs and another $4.975 million in “in-kind” healing programs and services, for a total of about $15.721 million. As of the third quarter of 2005, $16.8 million had been collected toward the $25 million goal, with $6.6 million paid out in lawsuit settlements. General Synod, the church’s national office in Toronto, has scheduled five conference calls in early January to allow bishops, other diocesan officials, CoGS members and indigenous Anglicans to ask questions about the agreement. The letter added that “we are negotiating an extension of (the Jan. 30) deadline and will advise you immediately if such an extension is achieved.” Major decisions are generally made by the diocesan bishop in consultation with officials and the diocese’s executive council. The information letter said it is anticipated that a final agreement, which needs approval from seven Canadian courts, would become effective in late 2006 or early 2007. Until then, the current settlement agreement remains in force. The boarding school system was run by the federal government and administered by various churches. While some former students said they received a valuable education, others told stories of physical and sexual abuse in some schools and said they were alienated from their language and culture. Hundreds of former students have sued the government and churches for damages.

Author

  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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