The Anglican Church of Canada has made a deal with the Canadian government that leaders hope will keep the denomination from bankruptcy. The agreement, signed on March 11, caps the church's financial responsibility at $25 million for lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse in Indian residential schools (CT, Jan. 7, 2002, p. 20).
The Anglican Church will be responsible for 30 percent of compensation awarded in validated cases of abuse; the federal government will pay the other 70 percent.
Although only 11 dioceses ran schools, all 30 are taking responsibility for compensating victims. "I'm very pleased and, in a way, amazed that dioceses so quickly could mobilize themselves to make decisions," said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the church's general secretary and chief negotiator.
The agreement puts pending court cases into an alternative dispute resolution process. This will include counselling, pastoral care, therapy and legal advice, says Anglican Archdeacon Larry Beardy, a member of the negotiating team.
Beardy, who attended a residential school between the ages of 7 and 16, remembers being beaten and going hungry. Beardy slowly lost the ability to communicate in his native Cree language. When he finally left school, he said, "I was the happiest youth in the world."
The agreement does not allow compensation for loss of language or culture, which concerns the Anglican Council for Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), Beardy said. The church hopes to address those losses through a healing fund and through special programs.
ACIP Chairman Andrew Wesley worries that residential school victims will have trouble accessing the medical records necessary to apply for compensation. But Wesley, a residential school alumnus who runs an urban native ministry ...