Canada's deputy prime minister, Herb Gray, has met leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) in an attempt to resolve thousands of court cases alleging abuse at indigenous residential schools run by churches on behalf of the government.

The May 17 meeting came soon after the Anglican bishops wrote to Prime Minister Jean Chretien, urging him to intervene in stalled negotiations over compensation for former students who claim they were abused by school staff.

The federal cabinet chose Gray to negotiate with the four denominations named in litigation and to bring the schools crisis to a satisfactory conclusion.

More than 7,000 indigenous people have sued the federal government, and four churches—the ACC, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada and a number of Roman Catholic orders. Alleging that they suffered physical or sexual abuse while attending residential schools, claimants are seeking damages estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. The residential school system operated from 1820 to 1969.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican General Synod, the ACC's national governing body, attended the meeting with Gray.

"Our immediate concern was that the discussions between the church and the government were too slow and that the General Synod and several dioceses were facing financial crises," Boyles said. "The national body of the church is at risk financially, and we have been telling the government for the past year that we will run out of liquid assets by the end of this year unless there is some way to find an agreement with the government so that we can get on with healing and reconciliation work."

Boyles added, "The largest number of claimants are those naming the various ...

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