Court ruling clears way for settlement; church and Crown held jointly liable

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The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that the Government of Canada and the Anglican church are jointly responsible for sexual abuse committed in the early 1970s by a dormitory supervisor at St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C.

The ruling clears the way for the plaintiff in the case to receive compensation, according to Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the church’s General Secretary.

The sexual abuse which began in 1970 ended in 1973 when the supervisor, Derek Clarke, was dismissed after the school’s principal received a complaint. Clarke was subsequently convicted, and the facts of the abuse were not in dispute in this case. The issues in the case relate to the liability of the government, which owned and administered the school and paid the salaries of its staff, and the church, which was involved in the school’s operation.

The Diocese of Cariboo, based in Kamloops, and the church’s General Synod, its national body, were found jointly liable, along with the federal government. Mr. Boyles said it is not clear whether the Diocese of Cariboo has the financial resources to meet its share of the obligation, but he pledged that the national church will ensure the church’s portion of the compensation is honoured.

The Right Reverend Jim Cruickshank, Bishop of Cariboo, said he will meet with leaders in his diocese at his earliest opportunity to consider options which, he said, include the possibility of declaring bankruptcy. The diocese is home to fewer than 5,000 Anglicans in 17 parishes. Nine of the parishes are self-supporting. The Diocese of Cariboo is part of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. Archbishop David Crawley, the Province’s senior bishop, said he will work with the Diocese of Cariboo as it considers its future.

Mr. Boyles said the church has not yet made a decision on whether to appeal the judgment, which allocated 60 percent of direct liability to the church, and 40 percent to the government. “We are disappointed by that finding and do not believe it represents an appropriate share of the government’s liability,” he said. “In the meantime, however, we want to ensure that the plaintiff receives his due settlement as quickly as possible, regardless of any subsequent appeal.”

Mr. Boyles noted the church’s primary work in relation to Aboriginal persons today is focused on healing and reconciliation. A healing fund was established in 1991. To date it has made more than 40 grants, totaling almost $500,000, to assist community-based healing initiatives.

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