Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 18, 2002
Residential schools issue settles into the bureaucracy
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Senator Douglas Roche says "Ottawa permanence" has settled in on the residential school litigation issue and points to a $53-million federal bureaucracy created to resolve abuse claims by former students.
"Only $20 million of that $53 million is devoted to settling the claims," he told the Senate March 6. "We have 72 lawyers. We have $11 million for their salaries. We have another $13 million to $14 million for research that keeps going on, to deal with the file of 9,000 claims."
The figures used by Roche were contained in a report in the Globe and Mail the same day.
Roche said the issue requires a reconciliation model, rather than litigation "in order to effect the human healing of all those persons concerned."
Saying that the government's decision last October to pay 70 per cent of the claims that were settled had "a paralyzing effect" on discussions that were being held between the churches and government for more than a year, Roche noted that nothing is happening in the talks now.
"Meanwhile the churches have paid up to $15 million to $20 million for lawyers alone," he said.
Roche, founding editor of the WCR, called for leadership on the part of the government, in particular Deputy Prime Minister John Manley.
Senator Sharon Carstairs, the government house leader in the Senate, said the government has agreed to continue its discussion with Church groups, but added, "It is my understanding that the Church groups are no longer willing to participate in such discussions and negotiations."
The churches, however, maintain the opposite is true. They said they made repeated calls on the federal government to resume negotiations but that their pleas fell on deaf ears.
On Feb. 4, representatives of Catholic organizations and the Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches said there is no longer a basis for ecumenical talks with Ottawa because the government and the Anglican Church have begun bilateral negotiations.
"These negotiations would now be inconsistent with a simultaneous bilateral negotiation in process," they said.
The Anglican Journal, in its March issue, says the government has refused to put a limit on liability in its talks with the Church and wants it to pay half the cost of alternative dispute mechanisms. The Church, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, says it cannot afford it.