Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 27, 2003
Residential claims deadlocked
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
If the Catholic Church in Canada can raise $38 million to pay off the deficit of World Youth Day 2002, it can raise money for compensation to students abused in Catholic-run Indian residential schools, says the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada (OIRSRC).
"And if we figure it out over 10 years, it's less than the cost of a box of Girl Guide cookies a year per Catholic," added Cindy Clegg, spokesperson for the OIRSRC. "It's minimal."
Catholics make up 46 per cent - about 12 million people - of the total population, although less than one-third are regular churchgoers.
But the Catholic Church continues to insist that if the government wants to negotiate an agreement, it should approach those Catholic Church organizations that operated the schools on contract to the federal government - rather than the Catholic Church as a whole.
"Deal with the appropriate organizations," says Gerry Kelly, residential schools advisor for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The government has insisted since the outset of preliminary discussions with the government over two years ago that the Church bears responsibility for the former students' claims against Catholic organizations, despite court rulings that the Catholic Church in Canada is not an ecclesiastical entity capable of being sued.
About 12,000 former students have filed almost 5,000 lawsuits alleging physical or sexual abuse in residential schools operated by three national churches and Catholic Church organizations.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were involved in 57 of the 130 schools, most of them in western Canada.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced the establishment of the OIRSC in June 2001, saying it "demonstrates the government's commitment to achieving a fair and equitable resolution of long-standing cases of abuse at Indian Residential Schools.
It now has an annual budget of $56 million and a staff of 75, many of them lawyers.
The Anglican and Presbyterian national churches reached cost-sharing agreements with OIRSC late last year in which the churches agreed to pay 30 per cent of the compensation awarded to former students with validated claims.
The federal government said it would pick up the remaining 70 per cent.
In the case of the Anglican Church, the compensation could not exceed $25 million over a five-year period while the Presbyterian Church would pay a maximum of $2.1 million.