Schools agreement a done deal

Published March 1, 2003

Delegates to Niagara’s special synod greeted news of approval of the residential schools agreement with a standing ovation and applause. The diocese agreed to pay $1.9 million toward the settlement.

The last three dioceses to consider the native residential schools agreement – Eastern Newfound-land/Labrador, Fredericton and Calgary – voted on Feb. 8 to approve it, completing the ratification process that began Nov. 28 with the diocese of Keewatin.

All 30 Canadian Anglican dioceses have now approved the accord, which caps church liability from residential schools lawsuits at $25 million. The dioceses will contribute a total of $22 million; General Synod’s portion is $3 million.

Since some dioceses pledged more than the recommended amount from General Synod, the total (see Dioceses chart, p. 2) exceeds $22 million. General Synod treasurer Jim Cullen said the excess is a “cushion” that could be used if some dioceses have trouble raising their full share.

General Secretary Jim Boyles said in a statement that he was “very pleased with the way dioceses have responded so quickly and so positively to the agreement. It shows the strength of the Anglican family in Canada.”

Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and federal Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale, the minister in charge of residential schools negotiations, are scheduled to sign the agreement on March 11 in Toronto.

The last diocese to ratify – Calgary – needed some concerns addressed before its special synod, said Archdeacon Barry Foster, the diocese’s executive officer. One was the amount Calgary would contribute to the fund. “General Synod was asking for $600,000. We argued that the money we spent on (the) McMahon (court decision) was valuable to the whole church. The diocese has spent about $400,000 on legal fees, so the amount we arrived at was $200,000,” said Archdeacon Foster.

Last October, Justice Terrence McMahon of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that only the Anglican Church of Canada’s Missionary Society could be named in residential schools lawsuits, since it was the entity that contracted with the federal government to run the schools.

Justice McMahon dismissed claims against General Synod and against the dioceses of Calgary and Athabasca. The Missionary Society still exists as a legal entity but it has no assets. Synod members approved the $200,000 contribution, but “the synod was fairly clear that if there is an opportunity to revisit this, we would contribute more,” Archdeacon Foster said.

The second concern was Calgary’s need for an assurance that the federal government would not appeal the McMahon decision. “We said if we didn’t have a guarantee from (federal representative Jack) Stagg we wouldn’t sign the agreement,” said Archdeacon Foster. The diocese received a letter before Feb. 8 from Mr. Stagg with the assurance Calgary required, he said.

In Halifax, a cold cathedral did not stop the diocese of Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island’s special synod on Jan. 25 from a lengthier meeting than most – about eight hours. The vote to ratify was not as overwhelmingly positive as it was in other dioceses. Out of about 350 votes, 76 per cent voted yes, said Canon Fred Krieger, executive secretary of synod. “I didn’t think it would pass,” said Mr. Krieger, noting that some speakers criticized the agreement for possibly opening the diocese (which had no residential schools) to future liability, some felt it would not result in justice for native people and others complained they didn’t have enough time to consider it.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., the diocese of Algoma’s synod – moved up to Jan. 21-23 from its regular May date – added the residential schools settlement to an agenda that already included the question of same-sex blessings (See Algoma p. 7).

Robert Falby, Toronto’s chancellor and a negotiating team member, and two residential school alumni, Michael Cachagee and Shirley Horne, made presentations in favour of the settlement.

“There were serial sexual predators working in the Anglican schools,” Mr. Falby told the synod. “The agreement is our attempt to do the right thing ? without spending legal fees and hiding behind corporate veils.” The native population in the diocese is significant, at 6.2 per cent in Sault Ste. Marie alone, said Archdeacon Harry Huskins.

During his charge to synod, Bishop Ferris noted that he had already received an unsolicited cheque for $20,000 towards the settlement fund from a Thunder Bay parish.

In Toronto, at a special synod on Jan. 25, Archbishop Terence Finlay issued a challenge, asking “every Anglican household, choir, youth group, outreach committee, ACW, parish and diocesan bodies, bishops, chancel guilds and individuals” to each send a gift of at least $100.

“We need to address this financial responsibility as soon as possible so that we can get on with the important work of healing and reconciliation,” Archbishop Finlay wrote in his challenge.

Before the vote, delegates heard presentations from Archbishop Peers and Archdeacon Larry Beardy, a Cree member of the negotiating team.

“My people are a suffering people,” said Archdeacon Beardy. “We have high suicides, epidemics in sugar diabetes, heart problems, lack of housing, homeless people and people crowded into dwellings that are like matchboxes.” With a shaking voice, he added, “the Anglican Church of Canada takes the lead role to show the rest of Canadian society what our people are going through and I want to thank you and God bless you.”

At the diocese of Niagara’s special synod Jan. 18, Bishop David Ashdown of Keewatin, a former residential school supervisor now presiding over a diocese with a significant aboriginal population, thanked the synod in Cree for its approval, saying, “gitchee megwitch” (“big thank you”). He said Keewatin is “walking a healing journey.”

In the diocese of the Arctic, where the agreement was ratified by a teleconference call among the diocese’s four bishops, the parish of Holy Trinity in Yellowknife said its mission outreach committee donated the parish’s entire $2,900 contribution for the year.

The Anglican church operated 26 of 80 boarding schools attended by aboriginals from the mid-19th century into the 1970s. Hundreds of natives are suing the church and the federal government, which owned the schools, alleging physical and sexual abuse.

Dioceses pledge more than $22 million requested
Algoma ratified by synod Jan. 22-23/ $725,000
Arctic ratified by teleconference Jan. 23/ $466,000
Athabasca ratified by executive council Jan. 11/ $125,000
Brandon ratified by diocesan executive Jan. 22/ $253,000
British Columbia ratified by diocesan council Dec. 12 / $1 million
Caledonia ratified by executive committee Dec. 6/ $150,000
Calgary ratified by special synod Feb. 8/ $200,000
Cariboo ratified by diocesan executive council Jan. 18/ $10,000
Central Nfld ratified through poll of clergy and committee / $345,000
Eastern Nfld/Lab. ratified by diocesan council Feb. 7-8/ $600,000
Edmonton ratified by council and finance committee Dec. 3/ $500,000
Fredericton ratified by special synod Feb. 8/ $762,000
Huron ratified by executive committee Jan. 18/ $2.1 million
Keewatin ratified by diocesan council Nov. 28-30/ $185,000
Kootenay ratified by diocesan council Nov. 30/ $275,000
Montreal ratified by special synod Jan. 11/ $500,000
Moosonee ratified via conference call/ $150,000
New Westminster ratified by special synod Jan. 18/ $1.6 million
Niagara ratified by special synod Jan. 18/ $1.9 million
Nova Scotia/PEI ratified by special synod Jan. 24-25/ $1.2 million
Ontario ratified by special synod Jan. 25/ $1.1 million
Ottawa ratified by special synod Feb. 1/ $1.6 million
Qu?Appelle ratified by diocesan council Jan. 25/ $400,000
Quebec ratified by executive council Dec. 17/ $135,000
Rupert?s Land ratified by diocesan council Jan. 14/ $470,000
Saskatchewan ratified by executive committee Dec. 18/ $225,000
Saskatoon ratified by special synod Jan. 11/ $300,000
Toronto ratified by special synod Jan. 25/ $5.04 million
Western Nfld ratified by diocesan executive Jan. 22/ $345,000
Yukon ratified by phone poll of committee members/ $76,000
Total from dioceses: $22,737,000

From General Synod: 3,000,000

Grand total: $25,737,000


  • Solange DeSantis

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

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