Negotiations with the federal government concerning the native residential schools crisis continued in March and April, but no progress was reported.
Anglican negotiators, including General Secretary Jim Boyles, Edmonton lawyer Jerome Slavik and diocese of Toronto chancellor Robert Falby, met in Ottawa with federal representatives in the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution on March 22 and April 2.
“The tone was positive and we are moving ahead,” said Archdeacon Boyles in an interview. He declined to give further details. Another meeting is scheduled for mid-April, but Archdeacon Boyles declined to give the date. (The Anglican church has been in talks with the federal government, beginning as part of the ecumenical group, since the fall of 2000.)
Also on April 2, the members of the now-disbanded ecumenical negotiating group met for the first time with Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. Members of the group had represented the Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches. The churches are being sued by hundreds of Canadian natives over alleged and proven abuse in a national boarding school system. The churches are seeking an agreement with the government that would limit their liability and, in some cases, avoid bankruptcy. However, the ecumenical group disbanded in late January after the Anglican church, whose national office and several dioceses are under severe financial pressure, opened separate negotiations.
Before it broke up, the ecumenical group “asked for an opportunity to meet with (Mr. Manley). (The members of the group) continue to be in touch with one another,” said Archdeacon Boyles. Mr. Manley was appointed deputy prime minister as part of a cabinet shuffle in late January. His predecessor, Herb Gray, was directed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien to seek resolution of the native schools issue.
The meeting with Mr. Manley lasted about an hour, said Archdeacon Boyles. “There was a good exchange of opinion and positions. I was impressed with his grasp of the issues and the scope of the issues,” he said.