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Canadian Primate delivers presentation to ECUSA bishops on residential schools

Posted on: July 31, 2003 12:23 PM
Related Categories: Canada

by Matthew Davies

During the second day of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA , the Most Revd Michael Peers, Primate of Canada, delivered a presentation to the House of Bishops which focused on two elements: the national church's Aboriginal Healing Fund; and the restoration of funds for mission.

Archbishop Peers, who has attended five ECUSA General Conventions and is due to retire next year, began his address by saying that his ministry has been enormously enriched by his involvement in the Episcopal Church, USA.

The Anglican Church in Canada administered 26 residential schools between 1820 and 1969. Since 1969 it has worked to establish partnerships with Aboriginal peoples and to support native justice concerns. Since 1990 it has been actively involved in responding to residential schools issues and contributing to reconciliation and healing.

Talking about the alleged physical and sexual abuse at the residential schools, Archbishop Peers said, "The imbalance of power, the cultural isolation and disorientation of students, and the presence of predators among the staff created a situation in which students were unusually vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse." He added that sexual abuse has created "a legacy of shame, grief and trauma" among many residential school students.

Archbishop Peers did emphasise, however, that the impact of the residential schools was not absolutely negative. "Some students remember their time in the schools with gratitude for what they experienced, and for the education they received," he said.

The Bishop of Keewatin, the Rt Revd David Ashdown, has previously underscored that "it wasn't a good system with a few bad people in it, but a bad system with many good people in it."

After a decade of deliberations the negotiating team from the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada reached an agreement - known as the Settlement Fund - with the Government of Canada's negotiators in the late autumn of 2002. "This 'Settlement Fund' will pay 30% of all adjudicated claims in which an 'Anglican entity' is found at fault," said Archbishop Peers. Representatives of the Anglican Church in Canada and the federal government formally signed the agreement on 11 March 2003 .

"While the agreement was widely celebrated in the Anglican Church, two key issues remain to be resolved in detail," said Archbishop Peers. "The question of the form and nature of 'Alternative Dispute Resolution', as well as the content and timing of the required release from further claims that claimants will sign, remain unresolved, and negotiators from church and government continue to consult."

In October, the Primate, General Secretary and other officers of the General Synod will meet with leaders from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples to take the next steps towards reconciliation in their lives together as Anglicans.

Towards the end of his address, Archbishop Peers expressed his gratitude to those in ECUSA who have already made commitments to the work of Healing and Restoration. "I am grateful for the history we share of Anglican ministry on this continent, for the many events, persons, and shared commitments that remind us of our communion in the Body of Christ," he said. "And [I am grateful] for the signs of generous response to our church's challenge that have emerged from various places within the Episcopal Church."