Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2002
Churches want mediator in residential school talks
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Church organizations that were involved in talks with the federal government on liability for abuse claims filed by former Indian residential school students are calling for the appointment of a mediator.
The Ecumenical Group on Residential Schools announced Jan. 11 it has asked Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray to agree to a mediator to facilitate future negotiations between Church organizations and the federal government.
Negotiations broke down last October after the government offered to pay 70 per cent of the cost of abuse claims reached out of court with former residential school students. The churches said the offer was made unilaterally and that a more comprehensive solution for dealing with abuse claims is needed.
The ecumenical group had proposed a "significant" cash contribution for compensation, the establishment of healing and reconciliation projects, a commitment to continued work in aboriginal communities and an "alternative redress model."
About 8,500 former students of the schools have launched more than 4,500 lawsuits so far.
"Former students who have filed claims have waited long enough for an agreement to be reached between the government and the churches," said Sister Marie Zarowny, the chair of the Catholic Organizations' Task Group on Indian Residential Schools (COTG).
The Church organizations involved in negotiations with Ottawa recognize they need the help of a mediator in resolving this impasse with the government, she added.
The COTG was created in June 2000 by more than 30 separate Catholic dioceses and religious orders of men and women. It is part of the Ecumenical Group that also includes representatives of the Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches.
The group said a letter was sent to Gray before Christmas asking that he respond by Jan. 18 to three conditions to be met when negotiations are resumed.
They want a timetable established aimed at reaching an agreement by March 31, 2002; the appointment of a "mutually agreeable mediator/facilitator to assist in the negotiations; and the basic elements of the churches' proposal placed on the table.
"We had hoped that our request for a mediator would be immediately agreed to because it seems like such a reasonable way to move forward, but thus far there has been no response from Ottawa," Zarowny said.
"If ecumenical talks are to continue with any hope of success, we believe a mediator must be sitting at the table," said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, Chair of the Ecumenical Group on Residential Schools.