Letter writing renewed after government breaches negotiation protocol
[ACC, Toronto] Canadian Anglicans are again being urged to write their members of Parliament and local newspapers to express their views on the litigation surrounding residential schools. The move comes after Ottawa released the results of a federal government-commissioned poll asking Canadians their opinions on the schools and on who should pay the legal settlements.
In a memo to Anglican bishops and members of the Council of General Synod, general secretary Jim Boyles says the release of the poll results represents a departure from the government's own request that the residential schools issue not be negotiated in the media.
"Mr. (Herb) Gray, the Deputy Prime Minister, has stated forcefully on several occasions that he does not want to conduct the residential schools negotiations through the newspapers," wrote Archdeacon Boyles in a memo released at the same time as he and other church leaders were meeting in Ottawa with federal government officials for another round of negotiations.
"In our view, the release of the polling results on the eve of the fourth scheduled meeting of government and church representatives, and particularly the comments made by Shawn Tupper in the articles represent a reprehensible breach of this understanding."
Mr Tupper is director-general of the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada, which is addressing abuse claims for Ottawa.
He was widely quoted in the country's media saying that polls showed that most Canadians believe that churches and the federal government should split or share the cost of compensating native people for residential school abuses. The poll also suggested that most Canadians believe churches selling assets to pay the cost of lawsuits is a "perfectly acceptable result." Nearly 40 per cent of those polled said they do not believe the Anglican Church of Canada's claims that it risks financial ruin if it continues to be liable for the litigation.
The Anglican Church has consistently said it is interested in healing and reconciliation work with indigenous people and has established a healing fund to help native communities and groups affected by residential schools. But it believes that Ottawa bear the brunt of the litigation costs since it was responsible for operating the schools.
The church has also said that it will run out of money by the end of this year. Archdeacon Boyles has said that the church is spending about $100,000 a month on litigation costs and related matters.
In his recent memo, Archdeacon Boyles noted that the poll results show that there is little public awareness of the complexity of church structures and of the drastic effect that would result from churches being forced to sell assets, including "loss of social programs, loss of community presence, loss of community facilities."
For months, the church has not requested that Anglicans contact their members of Parliament, abiding by Ottawa's request that negotiations be kept private. Now, it is urging Anglicans to contact their elected representatives, local newspapers or request "informed individuals within your community to write about the issue."
Links for background information on residential school are provided at the bottom of this story. There is also a link for those wishing to find their MPs (names and mailing addresses). Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member at the following address:
House of Commons
acc web news
The Anglican Church of Canada
Residential Schools - Legacy and Response section of www.anglican.ca website
Residential Schools Update #10 - the most recent update by Archdeacon Jim Boyles on the residential schools situation, detailing the litigation and the church's finances