Position of the Anglican Church of Canada,
Q&A — Feb. 4, 2002
- What role did the bilateral negotiations initiated by the Anglican Church have in the demise of negotiations by the ecumenical group?
The Anglicans were concerned as far back as July about the lack of progress in the ecumenical negotiations. A resolution at their General Synod, although not passed, but referred, called for withdrawal from the ecumenical negotiations by mid-September. After the implications of the government’s unilateral announcement in October were assessed, the Anglicans decided to respond to the invitation by Mr. Jack Stagg, schools negotiator for the federal government, to talk with individual churches. Initial meetings were held in late December and early January, and a third meeting is taking place in Vancouver, Feb. 4-5.
Once these bilateral discussions were established, the ecumenical group felt that it would be impossible to continue in negotiation with government.
- How do Anglicans think a resolution will now be achieved?
The Anglicans hope that the bilateral negotiations will progress rapidly to resolution that will allow them to get on with their primary goal, namely healing and reconciliation initiatives, and will also enable them to make their contribution to settlement costs without causing severe havoc with the dioceses and the General Synod. Mr. Stagg has stated that the benefits of an agreement with one church would be available to the other churches, so we would hope that resolution with the Anglicans would serve as a model for resolution with the other churches.
- How would we characterize the relationship with the federal government?
Some Anglican representatives have been involved in these discussions with government for over three years now. There has been so little progress that expectations are quite low. The government’s October unilateral action to proceed with settlements at a 70-30 ratio, although helpful in moving to resolution with claimants, leaves some church organizations in an untenable position when faced with a 30 per cent portion which may lead to their collapse, as has happened with the Diocese of Cariboo.
- What meetings or other events involving the federal government have taken place recently that contributed to the decision to break off ecumenical negotiations?
The ecumenical group put forward its position to the government in late September. Since that time, no further negotiating meetings have been held. The government response to this offer was to make its public announcement in late October taking unilateral action.
There has been actually no negotiation, but a process of each party stating its position, without much dialogue. The ecumenical group has met several times since October, usually by teleconference, and agreed in December to write to Mr. Gray seeking a resumption of the ecumenical discussions if a mediator would be appointed, if a short time line were agreed upon, and if the basic elements of the churches’ September position were on the agenda. No reply has yet been received.
- What effect did the federal government’s announcement of its 70/30 settlement offer in October have on discussions with government over the past several months and the decision to break off talks?
- What happens now to the proposals that were exchanged by government and the ecumenical church group last September? Will the churches now reveal what was proposed?
The Anglicans are continuing in negotiation, and the elements of the September proposal are part of these talks. Basically, the churches proposed a way by which they could make significant contributions, in cash and in kind, participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes, and work with claimants and government to find ways of resolving the claims expeditiously and with care and concern for those who have been abused.
- Has the decision by the ecumenical group been influenced in any way by changes in the position of government since the Cabinet shuffle and the appointment of a new minister to oversee this work?
No, except that the Cabinet change has meant further delay. The ecumenical group indicated in its statement that it has written to ask for an opportunity to meet with Mr. John Manley, the new minister in charge, as soon as possible to set before him their concerns and to hear his perspective on the issues.
Our hope his that he will energetically pursue resolution of these claims while honouring the frequent statement by Mr. Herb Gray, the minister formerly responsible, that the government does not intend to see the church organizations fall into bankruptcy.
- Has the ecumenical concept collapsed?
Yes, as a negotiating team. It is hoped that representatives of the church organizations will keep in contact to share information and concerns, and find ways of acting together when appropriate. Further, representatives of the church organizations have committed themselves to keep in contact to share information and concerns, and find ways of acting together when appropriate.
- What was the main cause of the break-up of the ecumenical group?
There were two mains factors: a) the government’s unilateral action in October and the b) decision of the Anglicans to seek bilateral negotiations.
- The Anglican Church was the first to “break ranks” with the ecumenical group by initiating separate government negotiations on its own. Should Anglicans be blamed for weakening the ecumenical approach and causing the group to disband?
The Anglican General Synod and several of its dioceses face severe financial pressures, and are already exploring possible winding up procedures. It is because of this desperate situation that the Anglicans decided to pursue another route. They discerned that the ecumenical negotiations were not progressing, and would not reach agreement in time to preserve the General Synod. The Officers of General Synod agonized over this decision between October and December, and made the decision based on their obligation to parishioners to pursue all avenues open to them to resolve the residential schools issues.
- Are the four church groups now at the mercy of the government, forced to scramble to cut whatever individual deal they can?
The government has always been the major force in these discussions. With its economic resources, its large staff resources, particularly at the Department of Justice, and its taxing powers, it holds much of the power in any negotiating session. On the other hand, we believe that it is in the government’s interest to reach agreement with the churches.
There are 2.1 million Anglicans, most of them voters, many of whom will be alienated if other dioceses join Cariboo in winding down, or if the national body of the church ceases to operate. Both church and government have common interests in seeing that resolution of the pending litigation is done speedily and that healing beyond compensation is undertaken in aboriginal families and communities.
The Anglicans believe that these common interests can lead to an agreement that meet the specific needs of both parties.
- The government offer of 29 October – the “70/30 Solution” – seems like a reasonable and workable solution. What is wrong with it? What better outcome do the churches feel they can provide by continuing to prolong this matter and by quibbling over what seem to some as small, unimportant points?
Basically, many church organizations will be brought to their knees by application of this formula. The Diocese of Cariboo is the first, and others are close to the line.
Secondly, the churches believe that the 70-30 split does not reflect the historic reality of the residential schools operations. The government owned almost all the school buildings, paid almost all the bills, appointed the principals and teachers, provided detailed regulations on the school operations, inspected the schools regularly. The government bears the major responsibility, beyond even the 70 per cent they have decided upon. The Blackwater decision in BC assigned the government a 75 per cent portion.
Thirdly, the churches are already active in many aboriginal communities, offering healing and reconciliation services and ministries, and are much better equipped to respond to the issues in practical, on-the-ground ways.
- Why didn’t the churches stop fighting among themselves and instead get on with making restitution to those who were wronged?
The Anglicans have made it clear that they will do their best to meet the obligations assigned to them by the courts, and are willing to participate in alternative processes. They are not, however, willing to pay large process costs for such processes, nor are they able at this stage to commit to pay 30% of any proposed settlements. The funds are just not available.
The church has made it clear, however, that it will participate in alternative processes (ADRs), with observer status, if requested by the claimants, and that it will meet with those whose claims have been validated to discuss its contribution to their settlement.
- The government has been saying all along that the churches – not the government itself – were responsible for the delays and the slow pace in reaching a solution and bringing justice to those who were wronged. Why did it take the churches so long to realize the ecumenical approach was not working?
Why the delay? The government has changed its lead personnel three times in three years. Mr. Gray was appointed in September 2000, and a year and a half later, little, if nothing had been achieved. The church structures in Canada are complex, and the government has refused to understand or learn these complexities and take them seriously.
We had hoped that such understanding would have been possible, but it became clear as time went on, at least to the Anglicans, that a one-on-one discussion might be more fruitful.
- Do the churches feel it will be any easier to reach a solution one-by-one rather than as a cohesive group?
In the case of negotiations strictly with the Anglican Church, there is now only one structure to understand, instead of four separate organizations under the ecumenical approach. The Anglican structure is itself complicated, being both centralized and dispersed. We hope that under the bilateral approach, there can be focused attention given to one organization – even though there are corporate distinctions between its various units (i.e. General Synod as distinct from the dioceses).
- Does the collapse of the ecumenical group mean the churches are forced to start discussions again from “zero”?
No. Some work has been accomplished over the past year, and there is close agreement, for instance on models of alternative dispute resolution. There has been growing understanding of each others’ interests. The Anglicans hope that an interest-based negotiation will bring results quickly.
- What are the next steps?
The Anglicans will continue their negotiations, and have undertaken to share as much as possible with the other church bodies.
Representatives of all four church organizations will keep in touch with one another, and if there are openings for further collaboration, they will be explored and acted on.