Chancellor George Cadman told Diocesan Synod that a new agreement in principle between the federal government, First Nations people, and the churches that ran residential schools “fills in the gaps” and should be welcomed.
The new agreement particularly addresses matters dealing with loss of language and culture, something that the Courts may not have been prepared to deal with, the Chancellor said in a brief report to 270 delegates at the Synod meeting November 26 at St. Catherine’s, North Vancouver.
It also enhances the procedures and the timetable for early resolution of claims through an alternative dispute resolution process (ADR), he said.
He said there is “a realistic possibility” that the amount of money Anglicans have agreed to pay toward settling residential schools claims may be reduced sometime in the future.
But the Chancellor, the diocese’s chief legal officer, warned that many details have yet to be worked out and urged people to continue their contributions to the diocese’s Honouring Our Commitment campaign.
Bishop Michael Ingham also urged members of the diocese who have been giving to honour their pledges and continue their giving.
The diocese is in the midst of raising $1.6 million dollars over four years as its share of a $25 million dollar agreement that the Anglican Church of Canada signed in 2003 with the federal government.
“We just have to stay the course for the time being,” said the chancellor. “The message to us today is to keep on going,” added the bishop.
“We don’t want to lose the momentum of this important campaign,” said Linda Robertson of St. Catherine’s,
In recent years, hundreds of natives sued the Anglican Church and the federal government, alleging physical and sexual abuse. Others have also sued for loss of language, heritage and culture.
Several court cases found both the Church and the federal government vicariously liable for physical and sexual abuse, but avoided matters relating to loss of language and culture. In 2003, the Church and the federal government came to an agreement, but this did not extend to claims of cultural abuse.
The Anglican Church of Canada agreed to contribute $25 million into a settlement fund that would pay validated claims of First Nations people who had suffered sexual or physical abuse in the residential school system.
The federal government agreed to pay costs of an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) process to prove the claims, and to pay all claims over the $25 million.
In early 2003, Diocesan Synod agreed to raise $1.6 million for the Diocese of New Westminster’s share. To date, the campaign in the diocese has raised $759,000.
First Nations people who have made claims and been awarded money have been required to sign a release that would prevent them from bringing further claims - not only claims for sexual and physical abuse, but also new claims due to the loss of language, heritage and culture.
Although the Courts to date have not established a right to claim for the loss of language, heritage, or culture, many First Nations people felt it was unfair to them to preclude this course of action. For this reason, some have refused to participate in the ADR process. Among those objecting to the releases was the Anglican Council of Indigenous People.
|Diocesan Chancellor, George Cadman|
In May the federal cabinet appointed former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to negotiate a new settlement on behalf of the federal government. Involved were lawyers for former students, church lawyers, the Assembly of First nations and other Aboriginal organizations.
The compensation package that Iacobucci negotiated offers every former Indian residential school student “living on May 30, 2005” up to $30,000 each in a so-called Common Experience Payment. Each former student who applies would receive $10,000 and an additional $3,000 for each year of attendance in excess of the first year.
Under the agreement signed in principle, former residential school students would not have to prove sexual or physical abuse, just that they attended a residential school.
Iacobucci also came to an agreement with the 41 Roman Catholic orders and other groups that were involved in residential schools. The agreement was more favourable than that reached by the Anglican Church in 2003 - the Roman Catholics agreed to continue work they do in aboriginal communities but do not have to pay into a settlement fund for the sexual and physical abuse cases.
However, the Roman Catholics, who ran over 50 residential schools and were sued by 13,000 former residents, say they will contribute $29 million in cash and real property, and $25 million in “in kind” contributions for programs on self-esteem, programs for healthy moms and healthy babies, and other works they do in aboriginal communities. They have also agreed to launch a national campaign for healing and reconciliation, with a fund-raising target of $25 million.
The Anglican agreement with the federal government contained a clause which stipulates that if another group reached more favourable terms with
Primate Andrew Hutchison has announced that the Anglican Church believes the Roman Catholic agreement is more favourable to that church than the 2003 agreement is to the Anglican Church, and announced he has invoked this clause.
Cadman stressed that the agreement reached by Iacobucci and the other parties still has to be accepted by the courts, and many details must be ironed out. He said this process could take over a year. Before a final agreement is reached, it will have to be submitted to each diocese for approval, as was the 2003 agreement.
The cost of the new agreement to the federal government is estimated to be nearly $2 billion. In addition to payments to individuals, the government has agreed to fund a “healing and reconciliation process” on both national and local levels.
Sherry Small, diocesan coordinator for First Nations Ministry and a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous People said that while fund raising is important, more than money is needed. “Money alone is not the answer to our approach to healing and reconciliation.”
If the obligation of the diocese is reduced, Bishop Ingham said he would recommend to Synod that any money returned to the diocese would go to ministry with First Nations people within the diocese.
For reports on this issue from the national Anglican Church of Canada, go to www.anglican.ca.