The Diocese of Qu’Appelle has rung up $215,000 in legal bills to date in dealing with the residential schools legacy.
That information is contained in the latest of a series of pastoral letters issued by Bishop Duncan Wallace, this to be read at annual parish meetings. The bishop has made it a policy to keep parishioners informed of developments on residential schools. In his letter he says he does this for two reasons: “First, factual information may help to counter the negative effects of rumour and speculation. Second, it is your church and your money and you have a right to know.”
The $215,000 is half the total cost for the lawsuits in which Qu’Appelle is involved. General Synod pays the other half. Qu’Appelle is meeting the costs by drawing on funds which would otherwise be invested for income.
“Please note though, that no portion of these legal costs is being paid from contributions you put on the collection plate and from the share which your parish sends to the diocesan office for our work together,” the bishop wrote.
Contributions to the diocese from the parishes were down by $14,000 in 1999, the bishop acknowledged in his letter. But this is not unusual, he said, noting the state of the Saskatchewan economy, particularly in agriculture, last year.
The first lawsuit involving Qu’Appelle is expected to be before the courts this spring. At the same time, the diocese continues to explore the possibility of alternative dispute resolution.
“It should be noted that ADR is no less costly financially,” the bishop wrote. “It just may be more compassionate but even that is not guaranteed.”
Bishop Wallace also notes that people with bankruptcy knowledge have been engaged to examine Qu’Appelle’s assets so it will know what might be at risk.
The diocese has more than 200 claims outstanding.