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 that were run by churches on behalf of the government.

The meeting on May 17 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 Deputy Prime Minister Gray to negotiate with the four denominations named in litigation and was commissioned to bring the schools crisis to a satisfactory conclusion.

More than 7,000 people have brought lawsuits against 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, who attended the meeting with Gray, said, "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.

"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."

Archdeacon Boyles said: ...

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