The federal government’s decision to appeal a British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling that found it completely liable for physical and sexual abuse at the Alberni Indian Residential School is disappointing because it will prolong the uncertainty for those seeking compensation, says Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod.
Many of the people seeking compensation for abuse while they attended the school are now elderly while others are unwell and the humane approach to dealing with their claims would be to expedite them rather than seek further legal delays, Archdeacon Boyles noted.
These delays could also put at risk the government’s own alternative dispute resolution process, Archdeacon Boyles said.
In a unanimous decision released in December, the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the United Church against a previous judgment that assessed liability at 75 per cent against the government and 25 per cent against the church in a case of sexual abuse by a school employee. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government was wholly liable.
The government announced today that it would seek leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a statement, the federal minister for Indian Residential Schools Resolution and the Attorney General said the B.C. ruling needs to be clarified because it differs from principles on the vicarious liability of non-profit organizations for the abuse of children in their care as enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In deciding to appeal this ruling, the federal government has also said that until the case is resolved, the agreement it has with the Anglican Church where the government pays 70 per cent of compensation and the church pays 30 per cent, will continue.
The Anglican General Synod and each of the church’s 30 dioceses are currently involved in raising money for a $25-million Settlement Fund created by the agreement between the church and the federal government.
This fundraising will continue, Archdeacon Boyles said.
Archdeacon Boyles stressed in his statement that the church’s legal and moral commitment to the Settlement Fund remains despite anything the courts might do. The church’s five-year commitment to raising $25 million for the settlement fund is intact, he said.
As of the end of last year, more than $8-million had been raised and $2.2 million paid to people with proven claims of abuse at residential schools.
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