To members of the Anglican Church of Canada, and ecumenical and interfaith partners:
Since the article “Other churches escape residential-school settlement obligations in wake of Catholic deal” was published in the Globe and Mail on April 27, 2016, the General Synod and several dioceses and partners have been receiving questions about the reported $2.8-million return under the terms of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).
In 2007, the federal government’s settlement with the Roman Catholic entities became the model for settlement with the other church parties, each of whose obligations was established as a percentage of the settlement with the Roman Catholic entities. For the 32 entities of the Anglican Church of Canada, that percentage was set at 19.8572 per cent of the Catholic amount, representing the proportionate involvement of the Anglican Church in the Indian Residential Schools. Other parties to the agreement included the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives, and the survivors of the schools. The total amount agreed to by the Roman Catholic entities was $79 million, and the total obligation of the Anglican Church of Canada was $15,687,188.
A further complexity in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was the division of the Roman Catholic entities’ obligation into three amounts, an initial amount of $29 million, $25 million in in-kind services, and up to $25 million in a “best-effort” fundraising campaign. The obligations of the other three churches were structured in such a way as to tie part of our obligation to the outcome of the Roman Catholic fundraising. The $15,687,188 obligation of the Anglican Church of Canada (thirty dioceses, the General Synod, and the Missionary Society) was structured in the following way:
- A total of $6,699,125 that had already been paid for compensation of claims.
- A maximum amount of $4,023,675 to be contributed by the Settlement Fund to the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation (AFHR), either by in-kind services or cash payments over a maximum period of 10 years.
- A maximum amount of $4,964,300 that is required to be paid from the Settlement Fund into the AFHR. The final calculation of this amount, however, would be determined to be 19.8572% of what the Roman Catholics raised over their 7-year best efforts campaign. In any case, $2.2 million of that reserve was immediately and irrevocably transferred from the Settlement Fund to the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.
The total amount contributed, including compensation to survivors and grants for healing projects in communities by the ACoC is $12.9 million dollars, most of it contributed by Anglican Church members, with some coming from the reserves in dioceses and the General Synod.
The remaining $2.8 million was, by agreement of all parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, held in reserve pending the outcome of the “best efforts” Roman Catholic fund-raising. If that fund-raising fell short of $11 million, the IRSSA intended that the funds be returned to the contributing entities. It is that provision in the IRSSA on which the General Synod acted in returning funds to those dioceses who had originally contributed them. This was an outcome foreseen and provided for deliberately in the Settlement Agreement.
In returning funds to dioceses, the General Synod fulfilled its legal obligation under the IRSSA.
The question remains as to the use of those funds by dioceses. A complete survey has not been undertaken, but early reports include the following:
- The Diocese of Toronto, the largest contributor, and therefore the recipient of the largest returned amount, is using that money to begin an endowment in support of indigenous ministry within the diocese.
- The Diocese of Niagara will use the money returned to it to establish an urban indigenous ministry in Hamilton, and to support a renewed diocesan indigenous ministry strategy.
- The Diocese of Central Newfoundland is using its small returned amount to support research into the early relationship between the Beothuk people and the Church, research that will help Canadians, and Newfoundlanders in particular, come to terms with the extermination of that people in the course of European settlement.’
- The Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island has returned the funds it received to the General Synod for our national ministry of healing through the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.
The dioceses of the Anglican Church have, apart from the matter of these returned funds, been active in the development and renewal of indigenous ministries, including specific initiatives, for example, in the dioceses of New Westminster, British Columbia, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Moosonee, Toronto, Niagara, Rupert’s Land, Algoma, Ottawa, and Montreal. A new self-determining indigenous jurisdiction, the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, came into being with the blessing of provincial and national governing bodies in 2013, and a national strategy of “walking together with Indigenous Peoples in a journey of healing and self-determination” has been guiding our church policy for several years.
The Anglican Church of Canada has been an agent of deep harm in the lives of indigenous persons, families, and communities. We have heard the words of the Chief Commissioner of the TRC, Senator Murray Sinclair, reminding us of the long commitment we are called to make to the work of overcoming that legacy.
It is encouraging to see the entire church rally to meet that commitment. In most of the dioceses that receive a return of the funds they created, those funds are being used to boost the local church’s capacity to respond to the challenge of justice and right relations among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, or to support the continuing national initiative of the Healing Fund. That fund began making grants in the early 1990s, more than a decade before the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and it will continue that work with whatever resources it can muster, long after the terms of the IRSSA have been met in full. The healing work in which we are partners with so many others is the work not of years, or even of decades, but of generations.
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