After years of controversy and faced with bankruptcy, the Anglican Church of Canada has agreed to a deal with the Canadian government to share the costs of thousands of lawsuits brought by Native students who claim abuse while attending residential schools.
Under the agreement, the church would contribute up to $16 million (US) and the government would pay the rest. Total costs could reach $1 billion (Can)
About 12,000 of the 90,000 former students have filed claims alleging physical or sexual abuse while in the boarding schools, owned by the government but run by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and United Churches from the 1930s until most were closed by the mid-1970s.
Anglicans have been named in about 18 percent of the abuse cases while Roman Catholics are named in 73 percent, United Church 8 percent and Presbyterians 1 percent. The agreement with the government includes only the Anglicans at this point.
'The agreement preserves the financial integrity of the Anglican Church,' said Ralph Goodale, the federal minister responsible for resolving the claims. 'Instead of meeting each other in court, Canada and the Anglican Church can focus our efforts together to settle the thousands of outstanding claims in a more supportive way for victims. This historic agreement allows the government and church to move beyond the debate of who pays what.'
Goodale said that the 'moral leadership shown by the Anglican Church in accepting the responsibility to the former students of the Anglican residential schools has opened the door to this agreement.'
Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that the $16 million cap exceeds the assets of the national church and it is likely that more wealthy dioceses will be asked to make contributions. The agreement now goes to the 30 dioceses for ratification.
'It makes no sense to bankrupt us,' Peers said at a news conference. 'The minute we go bankrupt, the government has to pay 100 percent.' He said that he had participated in 'healing circles and heard of the painful stories of abuse. By entering this agreement, we are saying that we have heard those stories, that we acknowledge our tragic part in them.'