Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 25, 2002
Grandin Oblates face possible bankruptcy
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The Edmonton-based Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Grandin Province may follow their Manitoba counterparts into bankruptcy if the government doesn't assume responsibility for residential school abuses, says the order's provincial superior.
Father Camille Piche says bankruptcy is now a real possibility given the huge number of lawsuits the order is facing.
"The legal costs are prohibitive," the priest said, noting the order has been paying in excess of $600,000 a year for the past two years in legal fees alone.
The Grandin Oblates are directly named in about 1,200 lawsuits from native people claiming they were sexually, physically and emotionally abused at residential schools.
"We don't have one settlement yet."
The Manitoba Oblates will seek bankruptcy protection in April unless Ottawa resolves the impasse. The order is named in about 2,500 of the estimated 9,000 outstanding residential school lawsuits, with potential liability of about $270 million.
The Alberta Oblates have few assets, mainly buildings in Edmonton and St. Albert, and their main source of funding comes from a fund established a few years ago from the sale of College Ste. Jean, Piche said.
"The only thing that will keep us from seeking bankruptcy protection would be government intervention," Piche said.
And the government should help solve the impasse "because they owned the schools, they set the curriculum, they appointed administrators and they selected the students."
Piche said the order's membership has been "tremendously affected" by the accusations of abuse, to the point many are wondering whether it was worthwhile.
Asked about the order's future, Piche said even in the event of bankruptcy the order will continue doing God's work. "I guess we'll regroup. There is life after bankruptcy, you know."