General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada will continue to work with the federal government on a proposal that addresses abuse claims stemming from the Indian residential school system. While a recent Alberta court decision dismissed lawsuits against General Synod relating to residential school abuse claims in Alberta, General Synod believes it is important to reach a settlement based on moral and financial reasons.
"Given the moral and financial considerations, we believe it is important that we continue to work with the government to negotiate a settlement to address residential school abuse claims," said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary of General Synod.
"We believe a settlement will move us closer to more positive relations between the Church and Indigenous Peoples. Healing and reconciliation continue to be our primary goal and reaching a settlement with the government will help facilitate that," he said.
"As a Church, we have acknowledged our moral obligation regarding our involvement in the residential school system, and we believe it is important to act accordingly. We've said our primary goal in reaching a settlement with the government regarding liability stemming from abuse claims is to enable our work of healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal communities. This goal remains notwithstanding the Alberta Court decision.
We would like to find a way in which the Anglican bodies involved can make a legitimate contribution to settlements and continue to work towards healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal communities".
In addition to the moral obligation, General Synod is concerned that it still faces severe financial challenges as a result of legal costs given that the Alberta Court decision is likely to be appealed by the government and may not be applicable to claims in other provincial jurisdictions. On October 24 , The Honourable Mr. Justice T.F. McMahon of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta dismissed all claims against General Synod based on the finding that it, at no time, had any responsibility or involvement in the management, operations, supervision or staffing of the Residential Schools in Alberta. While the decision did not dismiss claims against the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada, it did acknowledge that General Synod and the Missionary Society are distinct corporate entities, with neither body bearing liability for the other.
While General Synod welcomed the Alberta Court decision, its legal counsel cautioned that the federal government will likely appeal the decision, and a higher court could overturn the decision. Should higher courts continue to rule in General Synod's favour, General Synod will continue to face considerable legal costs as the matter works its way through the court system. As well, legal counsel has cautioned that the decision may not be considered relevant in other provincial jurisdictions where abuse claims have been filed.
"To date, General Synod has spent a considerable amount on legal costs relating to residential school abuse claims", said Boyles. "A settlement with the government means that funds would be directed to survivors of abuse whose claims have been vindicated, rather than being used up in litigation and for legal costs".
On October 24 , representatives of General Synod presented a draft proposal, developed during nine months of negotiations between General Synod and government representatives, would need ratification by both the Federal Government and the Dioceses that form the Anglican Church of Canada. At present, details of the draft proposal are confidential.
"The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples' (ACIP) rejection of the native residential schools agreement and its rebuke of the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, is stirring up both support and criticism in the Canadian Church". The major point of concern for ACIP is that "natives who enter into the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process must sign a release form promising never to sue the government claiming loss of language and culture in the national boarding school system." A letter from the diocesan council of Keewatin conveyed the diocese's deep distress at the press release and stand taken by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Bishop Don Harvey of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador also expressed dismay at the ACIP position.
"The national office of the Anglican Church of Canada has reported a deficit for the fifth straight year in 2007, with a shortfall of $777,195; the amount is $290,768 more than the loss recorded in 2006 of $486,427. The deficit would have been $1.97 million had General Synod not received a refund last year of $1.17 million from the federal government as part of the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the financial statements showed. The statements reported revenue of $13.68 million, and expenses of $14.46 million. General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford said there were a number of reasons for the deficit, but that the biggest cost was related to the transfer of Anglican Book Centre (ABC) , the church's Toronto-based bookstore, to the Lutheran bookseller, Augsburg Fortress Canada". "Although donations to the Anglican Appeal, the church's flagship appeal, went up by 1.6 per cent ($438,344 compared to $425,881 in 2006) in 2007, it still fell short of its budgeted revenue target of $550,000, added Mr. Blachford. Proportional giving by some dioceses was also down".
That the Council of General Synod confirms its adoption by e-mail voting of the following motion:
“That this Council of General Synod authorizes the Primate and the Acting General Secretary or the General Secretary to do all things necessary to give effect to the Agreement in Principle entered into on November 20, 2005 between Canada, as represented by the Hon. Frank Iacobucci, Plaintiffs, as represented by the National Consortium, Merchant Law Group and other legal counsel, The Assembly of First Nations, The General Synod of The Anglican Church of Canada, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, The United Church of Canada and Roman Catholic Entities, and without restricting the generality of the foregoing, authorizes the Primate and the Acting General Secretary or the General Secretary to:
(a) execute all documents necessary to amend the Settlement Agreement entered into on March 11, 2003 between the Government of Canada, The General Synod of The Anglican Church of Canada, The Missionary Society of The Anglican Church of Canada, and The Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation, in accordance with section 8.1 of that Settlement Agreement, so as to incorporate provisions no less favourable than those in any settlement agreement concluded by the Government of Canada with any denomination or church entity other than the Anglican Entities with respect to IRS Abuse Claims arising from Indian Residential Schools, and
(b) instruct legal counsel for the purpose of giving the consent of the Council of General Synod to the certification of any class actions and to the making of any settlement orders required to give effect to any final settlement agreement between the parties to the Agreement in Principle of November 20, 2005.” CARRIED #02-05-06
"David Jones, chancellor of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), informed council members of a strong possibility that as much as $2.7 million paid to the Residential Schools Settlement will be returned to the 32 Anglican entities involved -- General Synod, the Missionary Corporation and the 30 dioceses. He explained why and led a discussion about what might be done with General Synod's share once the final financial information is confirmed". In 2007, the "Roman Catholic settlement was for $79 million, and 'there had been an agreement that our proportionate share was 19.8572 per cent of theirs. That caused our $25 million number to be reduced to $15,687,188', he said. As a result, each of the Anglican entities' contributions were recalculated, and some refunds were paid". "He noted that the 30 diocese would make their own decisions about the appropriate use of their shares, but CoGS could consider what it might want to do with General Synod's share of $322,348".