Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 27, 2001
CCCB happy with B.C. ruling on residential school liability
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — A landmark court ruling in British Columbia laying most of the blame for abuses in Indian residential schools on the federal government is a step in the right direction, says the aboriginal affairs advisor for the Canadian bishops.
"The decision says what we've been saying all along — the government needs to take its full responsibility and (that) it was clearly the senior player in the operation of the residential schools," Gerry Kelly said in an interview.
The remaining outstanding issue between the Catholic Church and the government is Ottawa's insistence that the Church as a whole be held liable rather than the individual Catholic religious orders that managed the schools.
Chief Justice Donald Brenner of the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled July 10 that the federal government must pay 75 per cent of the $410,000 he awarded to six former students abused in a residential school in Port Alberni, B.C.
The United Church, which ran the school for the federal government, was found liable for 25 per cent. The group had sought $5 million in compensation for abuses committed by Arthur Plint, a former school supervisor who earlier admitted sexually assaulting several boys and who is now serving 11 years in prison.
Brenner found both the government and the Church vicariously liable for damages caused by sexual abuse, but rejected claims of the victims that the government and the Church were negligent and did not live up to their responsibility to care for the children.
Unlike direct liability, vicarious liability doesn't depend on finding the employer at fault.
Brenner said he found no evidence that the Church and government knew of the abuses at the time or that they should have known.
More than 7,000 former residential school students are suing the government and the churches for abuses they allegedly suffered in the institutions. In many cases, the justice department has named the churches as third parties even though the suits were launched only against Ottawa.
"Clearly the signal now (from the B.C. ruling) is what we've been saying for a period of time, that the government needs to take its full responsibility and that it is clearly the senior player in the operation of residential schools," Kelly said.
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