The Roman Catholic Church responds to renewed criticism after it was revealed that the Church had succeeded in avoiding numerous commitments to pay residential school survivors under the 2005 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA ).
This deal, in which the federal government offered a formal apology and compensation to residential school survivors, also required the Catholic Church to pay survivors $ 29 million and provide an additional $ 25 million in “in-kind” donations. .
However, a 2015 investigation by CBC and The Globe and Mail uncovered court documents demonstrating how the church managed to cut its payment to just $ 1.2 million. He was able to break free from his fundraising obligations after raising just $ 4 million of the $ 25 million pledged.
The church said it nonetheless donated $ 25 million in “in-kind” donations, which included drug treatment and scholarships, but also questionable items such as Bible study groups and routine travel costs to send clergy to remote communities.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and others are calling for a criminal investigation. Part of the concern is that the Catholic Church in Canada does not have a centralized body. Thus, the legal obligations of the IRSSA were aimed at a legal person constituted to represent the Catholic Church in legal proceedings.
This company was dissolved after 2015, which means that no central Catholic entity remains responsible for reparations to residential school survivors. The Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches, also parties to IRSSA, met their financial obligations, but the Catholic Church managed most of the residential schools in Canada.
This was all settled behind the scenes in a 2015 court case, in which federal government officials alleged the church spent more than $ 6.4 million from the survivors’ fund on legal, administrative and other expenses. .
The documents were only discovered in early October after CBC News and The Globe and Mail obtained a court order to expose the contents of the court case. Another Globe and Mail survey found that the Catholic Church across Canada had combined assets of $ 4.1 billion, while receiving annual donations of $ 886 million, making it the largest organization charity of the country.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Center at the University of British Columbia, told CBC News the documents showed the Catholic Church betrayed survivors, but also the federal government and the courts had allowed them to get away with this.
“From the start, it was not something that the survivors sat in the room and accepted. The survivors were outside of that, ”she said. Turpel-Lafond noted that the Canadian government could reopen the court case.
After calls to boycott the Catholic Mass, a petition to end the church’s tax-exempt status, calls from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the Catholic Church to take responsibility and churches burnt down after the A day of collective cemeteries on the grounds of former residential schools, Catholic bishops across the country finally issued a public apology to residential school survivors on September 24.
“We, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, gathered in plenary session this week, take this opportunity to affirm to you, the indigenous peoples of this land, that we recognize the suffering experienced in the Indian residential schools in Canada,” the statement read on behalf of the Reading of the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
“With these Catholic entities who have been directly involved in the functioning of the schools and who have already offered their own most sincere apologies, we, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our deep remorse and we apologize unequivocally. ”
The CCCB also pledged to renew its fundraising efforts to raise $ 30 million over five years, encouraging local parishes to participate. They promised that funding would be determined locally, in consultation with Indigenous communities in each region.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said in a statement she welcomed the apology. “However, I am disappointed that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops did not take the long overdue step of adopting a motion / resolution to officially invite the Pope to Canada to apologize to First Nations and Indigenous survivors and to survivors of intergenerational trauma here on Turtle. Island, ”added Archibald.
The CCCB told the Nation that the bishops recently pledged to dialogue with the Pope during a potential visit to Canada and stressed that a delegation of indigenous leaders will be granted a papal audience Dec. 17-20 at the Vatican. .
“While we cannot speak for the Holy Father, we are confident in his understanding of the continuing and historic trauma caused by residential schools, as well as his commitment to play a constructive role in the journey of healing and healing. reconciliation, ”the CCCB said in a statement. declaration.
The bishops’ organization said it believed the Catholic parties at IRSSA had fulfilled their obligations, but recognized that there had been “widespread disappointment” with the fundraising campaign, and that ‘They were confident that their renewed fundraising pledge would succeed in “achieving its financial goal and making meaningful contributions to Indigenous communities and residential school survivors.”
The pope said in June he was saddened by the discovery of the remains of children in residential schools but did not apologize at the time, despite similar apologies for the church’s role in colonialism and the sins committed in Bolivia against indigenous communities.