Canada: Pressure on Catholic Church to Compensate Residential School Abuse Victims | Canada

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The Catholic Church in Canada is under increasing pressure to compensate victims of the residential school system after the scale of its assets was revealed in a series of media inquiries.

Within the framework of a 2007 agreement, the church agreed to pay C $ 29 million in compensation to the survivors, but only distributed a fraction of that figure, citing weak fundraising efforts.

Now, CBC News and The Globe and Mail reports have revealed that the church not only controls more than C $ 4 billion in assets, but also attracts hundreds of millions of charitable donations and that he golden cathedrals built while claiming that he does not have the funds to keep his compensation promises.

The resistance of the Catholic Church to compensate residential school survivors is no secret, but the discovery of more than 1,300 anonymous graves has sparked new calls for reparation.

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Residential schools in Canada

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Residential schools in Canada

Over 100 years, more than 150,000 Aboriginal children have been taken from their families to attend publicly funded Christian residential schools in an attempt to forcibly assimilate them into Canadian society.

They were given new names, forcibly converted to Christianity, and are not allowed to speak their mother tongue. Thousands of people have died from disease, neglect and suicide; many have never been returned to their families.

The last residential school closed in 1996.

Almost three-quarters of the 130 boarding schools were run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, while others were administered by the Presbyterian, Anglican and United Church of Canada, which is today the largest Protestant denomination in the country. .

In 2015, a history Truth and Reconciliation Commission who concluded that the residential school system amounted to a policy of cultural genocide.

The testimony of survivors made it clear that sexual, emotional and physical abuse was rife in schools. And the trauma suffered by the students has often been passed on to the younger generations – a reality magnified by the systematic inequalities that persist across the country.

Dozens of First Nations do not have access to safe drinking water and racism against Indigenous people is rampant in the health system. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in federal prisons and Aboriginal women are killed at a much higher rate than other groups.

Commissioners identified 20 unidentified graves in former residential schools, but they also warned that more unidentified graves had yet to be found across the country.

Photograph: Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan / SASKATCHE PROVINCIAL ARCHIVES

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From the 19th century to the 1990s, more than 150,000 Aboriginal children were forced to attend publicly funded schools as part of a campaign to forcibly assimilate them into Canadian society. More than half were run by the Catholic Church. Disease and hunger were rampant in schools, and survivors described physical and sexual abuse, often by Catholic priests and lay Catholics.

In 2006, the important Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement has been approved by all parties – including survivors, federal government and religious institutions.

A recent report from the independent assessment process found that nearly C $ 3 billion had been paid by the federal government as part of the settlement, including direct compensation to survivors and funding for healing programs.

The Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches have all paid the agreed amount in full.

The Catholic Church initially agreed to make a payment of C $ 29 million to programs directly benefiting survivors, but a small portion of that actually went.

The church blamed weak fundraising efforts. In 2015, church officials told a court they raised a total of C $ 3.9 million for residential school survivors, according to the documents obtained by CBC News.

However, during roughly the same period, the church raised funds totaling C $ 300 million for the construction of new church buildings, including elaborate cathedrals.

At the same time, the Catholic Church used money allocated to survivors to pay for loans, administrative costs – and C $ 2.7 million for lawyers.

“The problem with financial compensation is you get all these leeches rolling in,” said Rob Talach, an Ontario-based lawyer who has represented victims assaulted by Catholic clergy. “And so, you never get the money locally.”

None of the other churches involved in the settlement had difficulty paying the agreed amount for compensation.

A new Globe and Mail survey suggests that the Catholic Church’s holdings exceed C $ 4 billion – and that its aggregate charitable income makes it the largest charity in the country.

Talach called the Globe’s reports on church property “conservative,” noting that a number of dioceses have money in independent charitable foundations.

“The church is not stupid,” he said. “They have money strewn all over the place.”

Senior church officials have done little to help growing criticism of the organization. In June, Archbishop Richard Gagnon said in a homily that Catholics faced “a lot of exaggeration”, comparing the intense focus on the church to “persecution.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The church’s healthy finances have also come under scrutiny as a nationwide search for unmarked graves is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Murray Sinclair, the former head of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, previously told the Guardian that the costs associated with the research would far exceed the $ 27 million allocated by the federal government.

A new petition calling for the church to lose its tax-exempt status now has 17,000 signatures.

“The suspension of charitable status will send a clear message and give the Catholic Church time to reflect on what it means to be charitable, to offer a sincere and full apology, to cooperate fully in making it available to all residential school records and pay minimum repairs. that were promised years ago, and ideally more, ”wrote David thomson, the creator of the petition.

Talach, who has spent decades in court fighting the church, said: “Their penance could be that they will finally start paying their own way.”


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