General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada will continue to work with the federal government on a proposal that addresses abuse claims stemming from the Indian residential school system. While a recent Alberta court decision dismissed lawsuits against General Synod relating to residential school abuse claims in Alberta, General Synod believes it is important to reach a settlement based on moral and financial reasons.
“Given the moral and financial considerations, we believe it is important that we continue to work with the government to negotiate a settlement to address residential school abuse claims,” said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary of General Synod.
“We believe a settlement will move us closer to more positive relations between the Church and Indigenous Peoples. Healing and reconciliation continue to be our primary goal and reaching a settlement with the government will help facilitate that,” he said.
“As a Church, we have acknowledged our moral obligation regarding our involvement in the residential school system, and we believe it is important to act accordingly. We’ve said our primary goal in reaching a settlement with the government regarding liability stemming from abuse claims is to enable our work of healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal communities. This goal remains notwithstanding the Alberta Court decision.
“We would like to find a way in which the Anglican bodies involved can make a legitimate contribution to settlements and continue to work towards healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal communities.”
In addition to the moral obligation, General Synod is concerned that it still faces severe financial challenges as a result of legal costs given that the Alberta Court decision is likely to be appealed by the government and may not be applicable to claims in other provincial jurisdictions. On Oct. 24, The Honourable Mr. Justice T.F. McMahon of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta dismissed all claims against General Synod based on the finding that it, at no time, had any responsibility or involvement in the management, operation, supervision or staffing of the Residential Schools in Alberta. While the decision did not dismiss claims against the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada, it did acknowledge that General Synod and the Missionary Society are distinct corporate entities, with neither body bearing liability for the other.
While General Synod welcomed the Alberta Court decision, its legal counsel cautioned that the federal government will likely appeal the decision, and a higher court could overturn the decision. Should higher courts continue to rule in General Synod’s favour, General Synod will continue to face considerable legal costs as the matter works its way through the court system. As well, legal counsel has cautioned that the decision may not be considered relevant in other provincial jurisdictions where abuse claims have been filed.
“To date, General Synod has spent a considerable amount on legal costs relating to residential school abuse claims,” said Boyles. “A settlement with the government means that funds would be directed to survivors of abuse whose claims have been validated, rather than being used up in litigation and for legal costs.”
On October 24, representatives of General Synod presented a draft proposal to Federal Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale to settle liability issues stemming from the participation of Anglican entities in the residential school system. That draft proposal, developed during nine months of negotiations between General Synod and government representatives, would need ratification by both the Federal Government and the Dioceses that form the Anglican Church of Canada. At present, details of the draft proposal are confidential.
For further information, please contact:
Archdeacon Jim Boyles
Tel: 416-924-9199 ext 280