Government will appeal court ruling

Published March 1, 2004

The government of Canada will appeal the so-called Blackwater court ruling which found that the federal government was 100 per cent liable for abuse suffered by students at the Alberni Indian Residential School and that the United Church of Canada, which staffed the school, was not liable.

The government said on Feb. 9 that it would appeal the case, named after the plaintiff, to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“There is a larger principle at issue — namely, vicarious liability of non-profit organizations for the wrongful actions of their employees respecting children in their care,” said Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. The British Columbia Court of Appeal decision, which was announced last Dec. 10, is at odds with Supreme Court of Canada decisions concerning vicarious liability (which holds that an organization is liable for its employees’ actions even if it was unaware of them), the minister said.

The decision to appeal is disappointing because it will prolong the uncertainty for those seeking compensation, said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. The delays could also put at risk the government’s own alternative dispute resolution process, he added.

Many of the people seeking compensation are elderly while others are ill and the humane approach to dealing with their claims would be to expedite them rather than seek further legal delays, Mr. Boyles said.

The decision to appeal does not affect the government’s agreement with the Anglican church that limits Anglican liability in residential school lawsuits to a total of $25 million. It also does not affect an agreement that the government will pay 70 per cent of compensation for proven abuse and the church will pay 30 per cent.

The government said it would continue to co-operate with the Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches, and would continue to negotiate with Roman Catholic entities and maintain partnerships with former students, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and aboriginal leaders.


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