October 31, 2011

CORNWALL, ONT. – Donor fatigue has left the Canadian bishops' efforts to raise $25 million for healing programs on First Nations reserves well short of its goal.

Archbishop Richard Smith, the new president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), attributed that fatigue to financial anxieties over the current world financial crisis and multiple requests for funds.

As a result, the Moving Forward Together Campaign has raised only $2.5 million, only 10 per cent of the Canadian Church's commitment.

The CCCB and the Assembly of First Nations announced in June 2009 that the Church would raise $25 million over five years for healing and educational programs on reserves.

The campaign is separate from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is a government-led initiative to get survivors to tell their stories and create a historical record of the residential schools era.

Both initiatives were part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement involving Catholic entities - dioceses and religious congregations that ran residential schools.

"Those numbers in no way reflect any lack of commitment on part of the bishops to this issue because every bishop across the country is deeply aware of issues facing our aboriginal people," said Smith.

"We want to be there in any way that we can, to support them, to lead them towards any healing of any wrongs, also to learn from them and the wealth of their own heritage."

Smith blamed the shortfall on problems bishops are experiencing when they have a collection for any purpose during difficult economic times "where people from one day to the next don't know what net worth is."

Financial anxieties coupled with multiple requests for funds has made it "easy for donor fatigue to set in," he said.