Church applauds schools agreement

By on April 28, 2006

The Anglican Church of Canada has applauded the announcement that the government has reached a final deal with all parties involved in the residential schools negotiations and that the federal cabinet is likely to approve it within days as “very significant.” Jim Prentice, minister of Indian affairs and northern development, made the announcement on April 25 in a speech before the House of Commons; he added that the government was prepared to reconsider its earlier decision not give advance payments to elderly former students of residential schools before a revised agreement is finalized.”The government will now immediately consider the settlement agreement, and the interim payments and the timing of those payments,” said Mr. Prentice. This could mean that residential school survivors who are now 65 years of age or older are eligible to apply for an advance payment of $8,000.The church’s bishops, who met in Niagara Falls, Ont., in late April, asked the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, to contact the government to express their satisfaction with the agreement. The bishops’ motion read, in part, “We are particularly gratified to note concurrence in the government’s commitment to early provision of the Common Experience Payment to elderly and infirm survivors of the residential schools.”The revised agreement, announced by the Liberal government last November, provides a $1.9 billion compensation package that will be offered to tens of thousands of aboriginal Canadians who attended Indian residential schools. Earlier, Archbishop Hutchison said he was “deeply disappointed” by the government’s announcement that it would not honour the revised agreement’s provision for advance payments to elderly claimants. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in early April, Archbishop Hutchison wrote, “We expected a more humane response to the needs of former students, some of whom are faithful members of the Anglican church.” The letter added, “While we were disappointed that the change of government resulted in some delay in implementing the agreement, we did not anticipate that your new government would fail to honour an important component, namely, the advance payments to elderly claimants.”The Anglican Church of Canada renegotiated the terms of the 2003 residential schools agreement that it signed with the federal government following an announcement Nov. 23 by the then-Liberal government of a new Indian Residential Schools Agreement. In its renegotiations, the Anglican church invoked the “most favoured nation” clause in its agreement that states that if the federal government reached more favourable terms with another denomination involved in the residential schools, Anglicans were entitled to ask for the same terms. The terms of the revised agreement had been more favourable to the Roman Catholic church making it liable for healing and reconciliation programs but not direct compensation. Under the terms of the new agreement signed by churches and legal counsels to former students, the dioceses and General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada will see their financial commitments reduced by almost 40 per cent. The maximum Anglican contribution would be $15.7 million, divided into: $5.7 million in compensation payments; $4.96 million in in-kind services or healing projects, and up to $4.96 million for healing projects to match the fundraising of the Roman Catholic entities.In 2003, the federal government and the Anglican church reached a deal that committed the church to a cap of $25 million in compensation. The Anglican church operated 26 of 80 boarding schools attended by aboriginals from the mid-19th century into the 1970s. In recent years, hundreds of natives sued the church and the federal government, which owned the schools, alleging physical and sexual abuse.

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