Anglican negotiators again met federal representatives in the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution last month, seeking ways to limit the legal liability of the Anglican Church of Canada, but no agreement was reached.
“A good atmosphere is developing. There is a relationship of trust among the people involved and we’re continuing to work at it step by step. There isn’t anything to report in terms of an agreement,” said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican church.
The latest meeting, on March 4, was the fourth since the Anglican church opened bilateral talks with the government and an ecumenical negotiating group disbanded. Anglican representatives at the talks were Archdeacon Boyles, Rev. Larry Beardy (an aboriginal representative), Edmonton lawyer Jerome Slavik, diocese of Toronto chancellor Robert Falby, Archbishop David Crawley of the diocese of Kootenay and Toronto lawyer John Page. They met with Deputy Minister Jack Stagg, who heads the office, and members of his staff.
“It’s all continuing and we’re encouraged by the discussions,” said Cindy Clegg, a spokesperson for Mr. Stagg.
“I would urge people not to be impatient because it is a very complex and difficult negotiation. I think that there’s been some progress,” said Mr. Falby.
Financial officials with the Anglican church have said that General Synod, the national governing body, is spending almost $100,000 per month to defend itself against cases involving about 800 plaintiffs that allege abuse in boarding schools that were run by Anglicans under contract with the government. Bankruptcy is a possibility, they have said.
The national church is seeking a cap on its legal liability, a move the government has, so far, been unwilling to grant. Government representatives have also said they want the church to contribute to the cost of alternate dispute resolution (an out-of-court process that uses a mediator), a move the church says it cannot afford.
Last October, Archdeacon Boyles told Anglican bishops that the potential total liability of all cases facing government and four Canadian churches is estimated at $1 billion. Under the government’s formula, the four churches would be responsible for 30 per cent of that amount, or $300 million. It’s estimated that the Anglican church would theoretically be responsible for about 25 per cent of that amount, or about $75 million.
In October, the government announced it would pay 70 per cent of out-of-court settlements in proven cases of abuse. The churches said that the decision was reached without consulting them and that even 30 per cent was a potentially ruinous amount of liability. The government is also pressuring the churches for 30 per cent of alternate dispute resolution costs.
Officers of the Anglican church say it has enough funds to operate through 2002, but its future is uncertain beyond that.