The federal government has issued the Anglican Church of Canada a cheque for $9.7 million to refund a portion of the church’s contribution to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Fund, which had been set up in 2003 under an old native schools agreement.
In 2003, the federal government and the Anglican church reached a deal that committed the church to a cap of $25 million compensation for proven abuse claims of former students who attended a national residential school system for aboriginal children.
But a revised agreement that came into effect last September reduced the church’s financial commitment to a cap of $15.7 million.
“This is the reimbursement that was written into the amended agreement. Under the terms of the 2003 agreement, we paid 30 per cent of validated abuse claims. Under the revised agreement, government assumes 100 per cent of liabilities,” said Ellie Johnson, the director of the church’s partnerships department, who represented the church in negotiations of the new deal.
When an agreement-in-principle was struck in November 2005 between government, and legal counsels for former students as well as churches that supervised the schools “it was agreed that any payments made before this period would not be refunded, and that we would go on making payments until the agreement was implemented,” said Ms. Johnson. The compensation payments made between November 2005 and the implementation of the agreement in September 2007 were returned to the church.
Ms. Johnson said that portions of the refund would go to the Anglican church’s healing fund, to dioceses that overpaid their share into the Settlement Fund, and to General Synod.
Contrary to some claims that the church “went scot-free” under the revised agreement, Ms. Johnson clarified that it had, in fact, already paid approximately $7 million in compensation and approximately $9 million has been dedicated to the Anglican healing fund.
“There are many components to our healing and reconciliation efforts. It’s not just compensation money,” she said, citing the Anglican church’s apology to former students of residential schools, its funds set aside for healing projects and its work in raising awareness about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will be formed as part of the settlement agreement.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Bishop Mark MacDonald, the national Anglican indigenous bishop, will join church and aboriginal leaders in ecumenical gatherings in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver and possibly Saskatoon, from March 1 to 10, to talk about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission intends to provide former students, their families, former staff, churches and others an opportunity to share their experiences as well as to promote public education about the 150-year legacy of the now-defunct Indian residential schools. The Anglican church, which operated 35 boarding schools attended by natives from the mid-19th century into the 1970s, has been named in about 2,000 residential schools abuse lawsuits.