Remarks following a residential schools agreement with the government of Canada

In responding to the legacy of our role in the Indian Residential Schools, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has held fast to three goals.

The first is healing and reconciliation, including but certainly not limited to justice for victims of physical and sexual abuse.  Our commitment to such healing and reconciliation includes support for initiatives within aboriginal communities.  It also extends to healing and reconciliation between aboriginal communities and a dominant society whose members (including many members of our churches) rarely meet aboriginal people, and know little of their history and present circumstances.

The second is the survival of church structures for the continuing mission of the Anglican Church of Canada.  We have sought to avoid the huge disruption that would follow the bankruptcy of our national body.  We have also sought to prevent more dioceses being forced, as was the Diocese of Cariboo, to cease operations because of the loss of all assets to the costs of litigation.

Finally, we sought an agreement with the federal government that would end the litigation that has cost us millions of dollars.  Such a settlement would ensure that what money is available would be directed completely towards settlement of validated claims made by victims of physical and sexual abuse, and no longer towards litigation.

The federal government, in this agreement, recognizes the validity of our goals.

We are now within reach of all three of those goals.  Our capacity to attain them fully is a function of our raising the money we have promised in this agreement.  The good reality is that all this money will go towards our share of the settlement of validated abuse claims.  (Until now, 98% of our payments have gone towards the cost of litigation.)  The hard reality is that the amount we have agreed to contribute far exceeds the assets of General Synod.  We therefore appeal to all dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada to contribute to this settlement.

This is not only an appeal to bring an end to a painful part of our history.  It is also an appeal to renew the Anglican Church’s capacity for mission in a critical period of our nation’s history.  It is a way of addressing the painful reality of part of our role in the schools.  It is also, more importantly, a way of restoring our capacity to share in God’s work of healing and reconciliation, of moving forward towards a more just and lively relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, in the church and in Canadian society.

For some time now, the life of our church, in General Synod and in eleven dioceses, has been preoccupied with litigation.  With the support of our dioceses and our members across Canada, we can return to our primary occupation and vocation, serving God and God’s world in ministries of hope, of healing and reconciliation, and of compassion.

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