Seven dioceses have donated a total of over $240,000 to the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation (AFHR) out of the refunds they received from the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Recent donations from the dioceses of British Columbia, Central Newfoundland, Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, New Westminster, Ottawa, Quebec, and Western Newfoundland will be specially earmarked for projects that build right relations between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.
“So many people’s lives will be touched because of what the dioceses are giving,” said Esther Wesley, AFHR’s coordinator, “These extra funds will be used to bring people together as the people of God, not just ‘Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.'”
$15,000 of these funds has already been designated for an outreach project in the Diocese of British Columbia, where Anglicans will provide laptops for Aboriginal post-secondary students in their communities. Another $5,000 was used to cover travel costs for Aboriginal participants attending “Doing Theology in a Fair Country,” a Winnipeg conference sponsored by the Churches’ Council on Theological Education.
Funds initially raised to cover lawsuits
In 2003, all Canadian Anglican dioceses were required to raise money for residential schools litigation. Supported by the federal government, the Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United churches had run residential schools across Canada from the mid 19thcentury up to 1996. In the 1990s, many former students began to come forward with abuse cases, and after much legal work, the 2003 IRSSA specified how the government and churches were to be held liable. Anglican dioceses were required to raise a total of $22 million.
Some dioceses were able to pay their required amount up front, while others started fundraising. In 2007, however, the IRSSA was revised and the church’s contribution was reduced. Many of the dioceses that had already donated more than was required by this new decision were given refunds.
Since 2008, the seven aforementioned dioceses have chosen to donate at least a part of these refunds to address the residential schools legacy through the AFHR. Some dioceses have donated the entire amount of their refund, and others have given more.
“There was a feeling that people gave generously and willingly [during the fundraising period],” said Bishop David Torraville of the Diocese of Central Newfoundland. “This was what they intended, so this is where the money should go.”
No Anglican residential schools operated in the province of Newfoundland, yet all three Newfoundland dioceses have given donations. “There was an injustice done,” explained Bishop Torraville. “It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t done in our province, it was done on our behalf. Being an Anglican means being proud of the good that’s been done and also taking responsibility for the evil that’s been done.”
Funds now designated for building right relations
Founded in 1991, the AFHR has distributed over $4 million to community healing initiatives that address the legacy of residential schools. Although the AFHR does receive private donations, the vast majority of its funds are drawn from money raised by General Synod and the dioceses under the IRSSA.
The AFHR uses IRSSA funds for a wide range of Aboriginal healing programs. These include healing and sharing circles; community services and life skills training; training in traditional activities (wilderness retreats, elder and youth programs); training and education (language development, capacity building); projects that honour history (story and history books, photo and story collections); and projects that build knowledge (especially about residential school issues and impacts).
Ms. Wesley explained that these special diocesan contributions will be used not just for healing but for projects that focus on “right relations,” which means building relationships between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. “We need to get to know people as people, as the people of God,” she said.
The definition of “right relations” will be refined by the AFHR committee, composed of Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals who are affiliated with Anglican communities, and representatives from the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations.
“This healing fund makes a big difference to the lives of Aboriginal survivors and their communities,” said Ms. Wesley. “It brings awareness that the church today is about caring for people. It’s the church’s effort to do something about the wrongs they have done, and the people that we work with are often so thankful, so gracious, about receiving the money.”
Visit the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation website for more information on how to donate and how to apply for grants.
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