Residential schools talks enter new phase

By on September 1, 2001

The residential schools situation moved into a new phase over the summer as representatives of the four churches facing liability issues met with long-time civil servant Jack Stagg, appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in June to negotiate with the churches.

However, no significant progress was reported.

Mr. Stagg is serving as deputy head of a new office, called the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution. He also carries the title of chief federal negotiator, reporting to Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray.

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“The office demonstrates the government’s commitment to achieving a fair and equitable resolution of long-standing cases of abuse at Indian residential schools.

“The office will also examine how to resolve claims in or outside of the court system and implement the government’s wider objectives of healing and reconciliation with residential schools survivors and their communities,” said a statement announcing Mr. Stagg’s appointment.

“It’s a step forward in a long process. I’m pleased with Mr. Stagg’s appointment, however, he’ll have to move very quickly to meet the needs of General Synod (the church’s national office),” said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary of the Anglican church.

Shortly after his appointment, Mr. Stagg visited the Toronto offices of the four denominations involved in the talks. “We introduced him to who we are as a church and what we do. We gave him the strategic plan, the 2000 financial statement and referred to the report from last May which said we will be out of money soon,” said Archdeacon Boyles

Archdeacon Boyles said he hoped for a resolution by the fall.

Hundreds of natives are suing various entities of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches, claiming damages for abuse suffered in a national boarding school system that existed from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s. According to government estimates, total liability could reach $2 billion and several churches, including the Anglican national office and several dioceses, have said they are headed toward bankruptcy from legal costs.

In some cases the Anglican church has been added as a third party in suits filed against the federal government. The churches want the government to stop adding them to abuse lawsuits and to limit their liability.

Mr. Stagg, 54, was most recently associate deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but served for about 20 years in the department of Indian and Northern Affairs where he was assistant deputy minister.

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  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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