Ottawa owned St. George’s but church ran it, judge concludes

Published October 1, 1999

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon delved into the history of Anglican missions in exploring the church’s argument that the federal government should bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for Floyd Mowatt’s abuse.

The New England Company is the oldest missionary society of the Church of England, and was legally separate and apart from the Anglican Church in Canada. However, Justice Dillon noted that the church and local diocese always worked co-operatively with the missionary work of the church without apparent distinction. The NEC founded two residential schools for Indian children: St. George’s in Lytton and the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont., against which there are also a number of lawsuits pending.

The Missionary Society of the Church in Canada was later founded by the Anglican Church in Canada to assume the missionary work of the church in Canada, including administering Indian residential schools. St. George’s was not brought within its web of schools.

By 1921 the NEC faced financial difficulty in operating the school and entered into an agreement with the government of Canada in 1922 for the lease of the buildings and lands. They agreed that the pupils would continue to be trained in the teachings of the church and that the principal would continue to be an Anglican clergyman.

In 1927, the government bought the lands in return for promising to continue the school for Indian children and to train them in the Anglican church. The principal of the school was historically appointed by the NEC on the recommendation of the bishop of the diocese. The principal also regularly reported to the bishop. This practice continued with the government rubber-stamping the selection of the principal, Justice Dillon found.

St. George’s operated differently than other schools, she said. The principal and bishop of Cariboo exercised greater independence and control over the school than in other Anglican schools administered by the MSCC and other government schools.

The principal acted both as administrator and church leader in the residence. He reported to the church and to the government.

Since 1966, the federal government declared that staff at residences operated by agreement with the church were not church but Crown employees. However, the government continued allowing administrators and child-care workers to be nominated by the church. In 1969, all employees were brought under the Public Service Employment Act and administrative responsibility for operation of the 17 Anglican residences, including St. George’s, formally went to the Department of Indian Affairs.

The government honoured the church’s right of nomination of the principal of the school until 1974. Mr. Harding remained principal until St. George’s closed in 1979. He then became administrator of the local Anglican hospital. The residence burnt to the ground in 1982.


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