Catholic bishops pledge $ 30 million for residential school survivors, AFN voices skepticism
Canada’s Catholic bishops announced Monday that they will donate $ 30 million to help survivors of the residential school system, a promise greeted with cautious optimism by some survivors and skepticism from the Assembly of First Nations.
“I’m glad they said it, but I’ll wait and see it,” said Madeleine Whitehawk, a Côte First Nation elder and a survivor of St. Philip’s Catholic Residential School in Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said the funds will be distributed over five years. The move comes after the CCCB apologized to Indigenous peoples for the suffering endured at Canada’s residential schools, most of which were run by the Catholic Church.
“This effort will help support programs and initiatives dedicated to improving the lives of residential school survivors and their communities, by securing the resources necessary to help them on the road to recovery,” said President of Residential School. CECC, Raymond Poisson, in a press release.
“Commitment will be achieved at the local level, with parishes across Canada being encouraged to participate and scale up the effort.
AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said in a statement that the pledge was “long overdue.”
And, she added, “Due to the church’s previous financial promises that have not been kept, [I’m] certainly the bishops will understand the skepticism and mistrust of the First Nations with regard to their commitments. “
The church pledged in 2005 to pay $ 29 million in cash as part of the historic residential school settlement, but documents recently obtained by CBC News showed much of the money had been spent for lawyers, administration, private fundraising company and unapproved loans.
He also pledged to do “his best” to fundraise $ 25 million, but raised less than $ 4 million. There was also a commitment to provide $ 25 million in “in-kind services”. Church officials say the third pledge has been kept.
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“We no longer accept empty excuses. Concrete actions and behavior change are essential as we move forward on the road to recovery,” Archibald said.
Action and dialogue on reconciliation has intensified since early spring after several Indigenous communities across Canada reported finding unmarked burial sites on or near former residential school grounds. The CCCB said it would help locate more unmarked sites.
Archibald and other Indigenous leaders have called on Pope Francis to visit the survivors and apologize in person for the church’s role in running the residential schools.
The CCCB said that in June, national indigenous leaders would meet with the Pope at the Vatican in December. A delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit will meet with him separately from December 17 to 20.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the Center for Residential School History and Dialogue at the University of British Columbia, said there was “an unfinished business” regarding the release of school documents and records of unmarked graves. But she said the $ 30 million announcement is a big step worth celebrating.
“It’s quite remarkable. It’s very welcome – a very, very positive thing, ”said Turpel-Lafond.
“It suggests that they are starting to take concrete action here.”
Turpel-Lafond said the effort must be transparent, with regular public reporting and accounting. It must also be led by the survivors and their descendants
“All of this is so important to start building trust,” she said.