A $4,886 refund is coming to the Diocese of New Westminster due to overpayment of the diocese’s contribution to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Fund. The money had been raised as part of the diocese’s Honouring Our Commitment (HOC) campaign.

Diocesan Synod in 2003 decided that any money over the amount required to be paid into the Settlement Fund would go to engaging with First Nations Communities inside and outside the diocese.

Some $975,622 had been sent by the diocese to the settlement fund when the HOC campaign ended. However the final figure of what was required was $970,736 – hence the refund of $4,886.

 A few other dioceses and the national Church had paid considerably more than they were required to. The Diocese of Edmonton gets a refund of nearly $200,000; the national Church over a million dollars. The refunds throughout the Anglican Church will total about $2.8 million dollars.

Aboriginal and church leaders marched from the Vancouver School of Theology through the University of BC campus during an event March 5 and 6 in Vancouver to herald the formation of the Indian Resident Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

(Originally the diocese was to pay $1.6 million as its part of $25 million from the entire Anglican Church of Canada. But a revised agreement with the federal government reduced the $25 million to $15.7 million, and all diocesan contributions were reduced proportionally.)

Even after the federal government was paid, contributions continued to come in from HOC pledges. As of the end of 2007, the extra money coming in to the diocese (after campaign expenses were paid) was $66,987.

That amount, too, will go for work with First Nations—half to the national church’s Anglican programs for Healing and Reconciliation, which has sent more than $3 million to First Nations communities and organizations since 1992, and half will be deposited in the diocesan Columbia Coast Mission Fund, the fund that has been used in recent years for local work with First Nations.

In March a report in the Anglican Journal reported that the Anglican Church of Canada received $9.7 million dollars from the federal government from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Fund, which suggested to some that $9.7 million was available for distribution to the dioceses. However, under a complicated arrangement, the Anglican Church is required by agreement with the federal government to set aside nearly all of this money for approved healing and reconciliation projects over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, in March, BC church leaders—United Church, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic, as well as Anglican—pledged to work with the federal government’s forthcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will honour the experiences of former residential school students.

A panel of 11 people have been given the task of selecting the commissioners for recommendation to the government and the Assembly of First Nations.

The commissioners are yet to be appointed, but in advance of the commission beginning work, several church and Aboriginal leaders toured the country this month and held public events in Ottawa, Vancouver, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.

During the tour leaders from the churches individually apologized to First Nations. “In remembering the children, the Anglican Church has so much for which to be sorry,” said Anglican Primate Fred Hiltz in Vancouver. The leaders also asked that Prime Minister Stephen Harper issue a formal apology for the schools and the historic government assimilation policy.

About 100,000 Indian children from the 1870s through the 1970s passed through 101 residential schools created and financed by the federal government but usually run by the churches. The Anglican Church ran 26.

While some children attended voluntarily, many were forced to attend these schools whose goal was assimilation of the students into European-Canadian culture. Many ended up alienated from their home communities and unable to speak their mother tongue. Some were abused physically and sexually. The Anglican Church ended its association with residential schools 39 years ago, and formally apologized for wrongs committed in 1993.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is expected to hold hearings across the country to find out from former residential school students, teachers, and others, what really happened in the schools. It is expected to be a five-year process.

Note: This story was corrected March 25, removing the reference to the Diocese of Calgary receiving a refund, which it will not.