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 in Toronto, supports the agreement.

More than 12,000 plaintiffs are claiming damages. Of these, 2,200 attended the 26 Anglican schools. Smaller numbers attended Presbyterian or United schools. The vast majority (72 percent) of lawsuits are directed at Roman Catholic groups.

In December the Presbyterian Church in Canada signed an agreement capping its share of compensation at $2.1 million. The United Church of Canada and Catholic groups have not signed agreements.

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 Diocese | Church, government still wrestling over ending lawsuits. (Jan. 4, 2002)
Government Decision To Settle Residential School Cases Upsets Churches | Religious leaders complain that the settlement proposal was made without their input. (Nov. 20, 2001)
Canadian Anglicans Nearly Broke | A judicial ruling limiting damages seems to be their last hope. (Sept. 4, 2001)
Canadian Politician Works With Churches to Resolve Abuse Crisis | Deputy prime minister meets with church leaders to resolve court cases. (June 6, 2001)
As Canadian Synod Faces Bankruptcy, Bishops Plead with Government | Anglican bishops appeal to Prime Minister for intervention (June 6, 2001)
Canada's Anglican Church Considers Possibility of Financial Ruin | Court costs, settlements surrounding abuse allegations could mean bankruptcy (Jan. 31, 2001)
Legal Costs Shut Down Canadian Diocese | Abuse claims cause the Anglican Diocese of Cariboo to disband (Oct. 19, 2000)
Lawsuits Force Anglicans to Cut Staff and Programs | Abuse allegations cause the Anglican Church of Canada to scale back church support and overseas ministries. (Aug. 25, 2000)

The Anglican Church of Canada has an extensive area of its site devoted to the residential schools controversy.

For continuing coverage of this issue, see the Anglican Journal, the ACC's monthly newspaper (its October 1999 issue provides especially good background information on the abuse allegations and their implications for the church.)

Classical Anglican Net News is a Weblog of sorts from a conservative Canadian Anglican perspective. It also has a special report area on the General Synod.

See also the ACC News page and the Anglican News Service.

The University of Saskatchewan's Native Law Center has a massive bibliography of articles and resources about the suits.

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