A coalition of churches in Canada is urging the government to agree to mediation to resolve thousands of lawsuits. The lawsuits allege sexual, physical, and cultural abuse at church-run native residential schools more than three decades ago.

In a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, the Ecumenical Group on Residential Schools appealed for a mediator to help find an agreement by March 31.

The churches say that victims cannot receive compensation until the government and churches agree on how to divide financial liability. Several Canadian denominations ran residential schools for the government starting in 1820. The last such school closed in 1969.

The lawsuits threaten to financially cripple several Canadian church bodies. One western Anglican diocese has gone out of business (CT, Jan. 7, p. 20).

"We had hoped that our request for a mediator would be immediately agreed to because it seems like such a reasonable way to move forward, but thus far there has been no response from Ottawa," said Marie Zarowny. She chairs a Catholic task force representing religious orders that ran 65 percent of the schools.

Church representatives resent federal government lawyers for routinely drawing them into lawsuits. Catholic, Anglican, and United Church officials have been negotiating with the federal government for a year regarding responsibility and compensation.

Related Elsewhere

More articles and resources on the residential schools cases are available from Yahoo's full coverage areas on first nations and religion.

Previous Christianity Today articles about the lawsuits include:

Legal Bills Sink Canadian DioceseChurch, government still wrestling over ending lawsuits. (Jan. 4, 2002)
Government Decision To Settle Residential School Cases Upsets ...
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