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Catholic Church spent millions of dollars that were supposed to go to residential school survivors in Canada

The documents show millions of dollars that were supposed to go to residential school survivors were instead, spent on lawyers.

Two Catholic churches burn to ground on First Nations' land
St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Kamloops, British Columbia, was built by was built by Catholic missionaries who came to convert the Indigenous peoples of the region. While it has an extensive graveyard, it's been found that many of the graves are empty. Image - Andrew Bowden CC SA 2.0
St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Kamloops, British Columbia, was built by was built by Catholic missionaries who came to convert the Indigenous peoples of the region. While it has an extensive graveyard, it's been found that many of the graves are empty. Image - Andrew Bowden CC SA 2.0

The Roman Catholic Church’s claims of money paid to survivors of Canada’s residential schools appear to contradict what is in documents obtained by CBC News of Canada.

The documents show millions of dollars that were supposed to go to residential school survivors were instead, spent on lawyers, administration, a private fundraising company, and unapproved loans.

“There appear to be a large number of accounting discrepancies that are alarming to Canada,” states one document, a 53-page federal government “factum” summarizing the evidence in a 2015 court matter.

The 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which was established with the express purpose of redressing “the legacy of residential schools,” included ninety-four recommendations and calls to action.

As for other churches that ran residential boarding schools, Anglican, United, and Presbyterian, they paid the full amounts agreed to in the landmark Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) of 2005.

Canada mourns 215 children after remains found at indigenous school
Members of the community of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Quebec march through the town on May 30, 2021, to commemorate the news that a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children were found at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia, Canada – Copyright US COAST GUARD/AFP –

Under the 2005 IRSSA – the largest class action settlement in Canadian history, a $1.9-billion compensation package was established called CEP (Common Experience Payment) for all former boarding school residents.

The “Catholic entities” in Paragraph 7 of the IRSSA agreed to three obligations:

  1. to pay $29 million to the now-closed Aboriginal Healing Foundation;
  2. to provide in-kind services with a value of $25 million over ten years;
  3. to use their “best efforts throughout the seven year period following the day after the coming into force of [the IRSSA] to raise $25,000,000 through a Canada-Wide campaign … for healing and reconciliation for former IRS students and their families and communities.”

The Catholic fundraising campaign, called “Moving Forward Together,” ended up raising only $3.7 million.

In January 2016, The Catholic Register reported on the “failure” of the “Moving Forward Together” campaign, stating that the “$21-million shortfall” had “added another challenge to the task of reconciliation between Canadian churches and Native communities.”

Lack of papal apology for Canada indigenous schools abuses 'shameful': minister
Canada once again calls on Pope Francis, seen here in May 2018, to formally apologize for abuses at church-run indigenous residential schools – Copyright AFP Juni Kriswanto

However, on April 17, 2016, The Globe and Mail published an article claiming that “in an attempt to make the Catholic Church pay the full amount of the $29-million cash settlement, the government inadvertently released it from any obligation it might have had to continue with a dismal fundraising campaign.”

As of right now, advocates for the survivors of the boarding schools say that are disgusted and that the Catholic Church must be held accountable.

“This is unbelievably, absolutely gross. It’s completely wrong,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former Saskatchewan provincial court judge and director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre in Vancouver. She reviewed the documents at CBC’s request.

“How could anyone do something like this?”

According to Commonweal, the Catholic Church remains resistant to meeting a number of financial commitments it agreed to as a key signatory to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. And this is just plain wrong.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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