Donations to the Anglican Church of Canada’s aboriginal healing fund declined last year, partly because dioceses were under pressure to contribute to a new fund that is paying settlements to those abused in the Indian residential school system.
“People say that a lot of (their) money is going to the settlement fund,” said Esther Wesley, indigenous healing co-ordinator in the national church’s partnerships department in Toronto.
In 2003, 38 grants totaling $347,000 funded counseling for former students who suffered abuse in the schools, the study of aboriginal language and culture such as traditional ceremonies and programs that bring young people and elders together. The projects were located in 14 of Canada ‘s 30 dioceses.
However, the monetary total was down seven per cent from 2002, when $373,000 supported 39 projects, said Ms. Wesley.
The healing fund is supported by a grant from General Synod and by donations, which totaled $27,000 last year, down 47 per cent from $51,000 in 2002.
Canon Michael Iveson, director of administration for the diocese of Ottawa, said that with the exception of one major donor last year, “there has been no significant money that’s come in for the healing fund — but there has been for the settlement fund.” Last year, the diocese was able to contribute $20,000 to the healing fund due to a one-time donation. So far, the diocese has collected $549,000 towards its settlement fund target of $1.6 million. (Each Canadian diocese is contributing to the $25 million settlement fund in proportion to its annual gift to General Synod, the national office.)
The healing fund, which is open-ended, was established in 1992, when the sometimes-harmful legacy of the boarding schools came to light. One year later, Archbishop Michael Peers, the then-primate, apologized to native peoples for Anglican involvement in the schools. Many former students have said they were discouraged, sometimes forcibly, from speaking native languages and made to feel ashamed of their heritage. The Anglican church managed 26 of 80 residential schools, all of which are now closed.
Despite the pressure caused by the settlement fund, Ms. Wesley said many individuals and churches have made the healing fund a constant priority.
” Christ Church in Bobcaygeon (Ont.) is a very tiny church, but they send something regularly,” she noted. Contributions have also come from the United States and St. James Cathedral in Toronto is a regular contributor, she said, noting that the collection from Bishop Colin Johnson’s recent installation service went to the healing fund.
Each year, Ms. Wesley visits four or five projects (all funded projects are detailed at www.anglican.ca/acip). One grant, of $2,500, supported meals and children’s activities at a gospel jamboree in the small village of Easterville, Man., where natives were relocated in 1964 to make way for a Manitoba Hydro dam.
The new area in Easterville had rocky land, unable even to support a garden, unlike their old location, where the land was good and food was available. The result has been social breakdown in the community, she said, which is suffering from alcoholism, suicide and violence. “It’s hard to get people (there) to talk about anything,” she said, adding that the jamboree was a step on the path to healing.
Many of the people involved with projects supported by the healing fund have no connection with the church, but come to see it in a positive light. “One by one, the way I see it working is that the projects come in and many of the people involved have had nothing to do with the church for so many years. I talk about the work of the church and they see it with new eyes. They see that this is not what (they) knew of the church in the residential schools. I talk about people giving (to the healing fund) from the heart, not church as a structure, as a building,” she said.