Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
June 11, 2001
Residential school talks enter new phase
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — Talks between the federal government and the churches that operated Indian residential schools are being formalized.
But a resolution to mounting residential school lawsuits may still be a long way off.
Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray met privately June 1 with representatives of the Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United churches, telling them he had received a mandate from cabinet to formalize the dialogue between the two sides that was started last fall.
He also introduced the Church delegation - which included Sister Marie Zarowny, chair of the Catholic task group on Indian residential schools, and Gerry Kelly, aboriginal affairs advisor for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops - to Jack Stagg, a senior government official who will handle the discussions for the federal government.
Stagg has a background in Indian affairs and has extensive experience as a negotiator.
Before the meeting Gray told Canadian Catholic News that discussions would also be held with the claimants.
"Basically, today we're going to go on from dialogue to discuss how we're going to undertake our formal discussions, which will focus on the need for an agreement between ourselves and the churches, and eventually to an agreement with the native claimants," Gray said.
More than 7,000 former residential school students have filed claims abuse against Ottawa and the churches that operated the schools for the government. The Anglican Church has sharply cut staff and programs to pay litigation costs and says it is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Kelly described the meeting with Gray as "promising" but acknowledged there is still much work to be done. "The level of urgency on both sides was confirmed," he said.
However, opposition members of Parliament took the government to task in the House of Commons saying the government has allowed the situation to drag on far too long.
Roy Bailey, a Canadian Alliance MP from Saskatchewan, said the government "has chosen a road of destruction for many Canadian churches."
Ottawa has set aside $2 billion, "most of which falls into the pockets of lawyers to take clients from former residential schools and then sue the Church organizations which provided the education," he said.
Gray, however, claimed Bailey was "way off base." The government doesn't want to see any Church or Church organization driven into bankruptcy over the residential school issue but there is a matter of shared responsibility," he told the House.
"We are carrying out discussions with the churches and eventually with the victims to bring about a fair resolution of the matter much quicker than would otherwise be the case.
"We do not want to see all the funds of either the government or the churches eaten up in legal fees,"Gray said.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.