Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 24, 2005
Catholic groups demand response from McLellan
Deputy PM ignoring deal, wants still more consultation, say orders, dioceses
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"It seems it died on (Anne McLellan's) desk."
- Sr. Gloria Keylor
In May, McLellan appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci as the government's representative to lead discussions among all involved parties toward a fair and lasting resolution of the legacy of Indian residential schools.
A spokesman for McLellan said the deputy prime minister has not responded to the Catholic groups because Iacobucci is to make recommendations to her regarding settlement of the issue. He has until the end of March to submit a final report.
The former judge's challenge is to decide how much money goes to compensation, healing and reconciliation and how much will go to pay the plaintiff's lawyers.
Keylor counters that the Catholic groups worked for two years with Dion, at his department's request, and reached what they thought was a resolution. Now, they are being forced into another round of talks.
The Indian residential school system was initiated by the federal government. It is estimated that up to 100 of the 130 schools that once existed could be involved in claims.
The Government of Canada operated nearly every school with the help of various Church organizations. In 1969, the government assumed total responsibility for the school system and most residential schools ceased to operate by the mid-1970s.
Of the 14,477 former residential school students who have filed claims, more than 2,500 have had them resolved.
Although the Catholic groups remain committed to healing and reconciliation, they no longer want to negotiate with the federal government.
"We are just letting her (McLellan) know, and letting the public know, that we are just not there anymore; we are not any longer negotiating with the federal government, which has proven to be a dead-end street."
The Catholic proposal would allow religious orders to use their resources to set up programs for healing and reconciliation and other programs "rather than put our money into litigation and pay our lawyers," Keylor said. The groups have set $58 million aside to back their proposal.
There is no money for compensation in the religious proposal and that's because religious groups don't see compensation as their concern.
"We worked in the residential schools but we did not run them, we did not operate them; that was the federal government's responsibility," Keylor said. "We're not interested in putting money into compensation."
Dion, McLellan's deputy minister, wrote to the groups 16 months ago asking for a meeting to try to resolve the issue.
"At the beginning we did not want to meet with him because we thought that would just be a frustrating experience; there would be no point in meeting with him," recalled Keylor. "But he sent out a lobbyist to lobby a group of women religious and told us this was a different time and they were very serious about coming to some resolution."
The groups finally agreed to work with Dion, who guided them throughout the process. When the proposal was completed in March, Dion even sent it in with his stamp of approval.
"And we never heard a thing (after that)," Keylor lamented. "It seems it died on (Anne McLellan's) desk."
The group says it has made repeated requests to meet with McLellan to discuss the proposal to no avail. A letter asking her to respond by Oct. 7 remains unanswered.
"I just can't understand it," Keylor said. "I just cannot imagine why (she won't respond)."
McLellan could not be reached for comment but her press secretary said the religious groups are knocking on the wrong door.
"Frank Iacobucci is the government's representative and it is up to him and indeed it is appropriate at this time for him to be the one to meet with all parties in discussion around resolving residential schools claims," Alex Swann said from Ottawa. "And indeed his mandate is not only to speak with claimants but to speak to churches as well."
Swann said Iacobucci is to make recommendations to McLellan based on his discussions. McLellan will then review the final report, "which will take into account the range of parties" that made submissions and participated in the discussions.
Keylor said the religious groups talked with Iacobucci but he told them he does not have the authority to come to a binding agreement with them.
"What guarantee do we have that if we are to work with Mr. Iacobucci that we would at the end of the day be further ahead?" the sister asked.
"It could just as easily die on her desk there as the other proposal did. If Mr. Iacobucci can't reach a binding agreement with us, there is no point in spending resources and time and energy and money on his process; it's not for us."
Religious orders such as the Sisters of Providence, Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Grey Nuns are part of the group that submitted the proposal to McLellan.
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