A federal Canadian government decision to settle legal claims of abuse at Indian Residential Schools has been met with surprise and distress by four Canadian churches—even though the government has agreed to shoulder more responsibility.

After more than a year of discussions between churches and the federal government, the settlement proposed by the government last week was decided without church input, church leaders complain.

Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, the head of a government team negotiating with the churches, announced on October 29 that the government would pay 70 percent of the compensation destined for 1000 former students of the now-defunct church-run federal institutions.

The offer could apply to thousands more former students who allege sexual, emotional, physical, and cultural abuse at the schools, administered by four Canadian denominations on behalf of the Canadian government from 1820 to 1969. The cost is expected to be about C$1 billion (U.S.$650 million), which, according to the government-proposed settlement, would leave the churches responsible for about C$300 million (U.S.$195 million).

In at least one case, a court set financial liability for the government at only 40 per cent, leaving the church in question to bear the major burden. Although the recent government offer takes more responsibility, churches involved in the cases were worried by what they called the unilateral nature of the government's decision.

Anglican Archdeacon Jim Boyles, chair of the ecumenical team that has been negotiating with the government, said that although the government's offer was "a reasonable first step," the settlement did not address many issues, including allegations of cultural abuse and how the churches could pay ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.