Fund Addresses Legacy of Schools: Lutheran Life Gives $50,000

Article excerpt

The Anglican Church of Canada's 10-year-old healing fund, established to address social and personal problems of native Canadians, has received a $50,000 grant from the Lutheran Life Insurance Society of Canada.

The grant represents a significant amount for the fund, which as of mid-November, had distributed about $145,000 to 14 projects in 2001.

The fund dispensed about $964,000 to 97 projects from 1992 through to 2000.

"Lutheran Life agrees it would be very appropriate if our grant could be put to use ... (toward) your church's first priority right now: healing and reconciliation work in the light of the legacy of residential schools," wrote James R. Widdecombe, vice president of communication, to General Synod's Partnerships director Eleanor Johnson.

Lutheran Life, based in Waterloo, Ont. announced the grant last July, when the Anglican church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada endorsed "full communion" -- a new, closer relationship.

While some indigenous Canadians say the now-closed residential schools provided a good education, many have said that their experiences in the system robbed them of culture, language and family ties. Hundreds are suing the churches and the federal government, alleging physical and sexual abuse.

The Anglican church, under contract to the government, managed 26 of 80 residential schools across the country.

Among grants distributed by the healing fund last year are $9,500 to elders of the Kashechewan First Nation in Kashechewan, Ont. on the west coast of James Bay to enable them to attend a meeting of former residential schools students. It was the first conference for those who had attended the Moose Fort and Horden Hall residential schools.

Another grant, of $21,000, went to the Surrey Aboriginal Cultural Society in Surrey, B.C. for three programs aimed at reconnecting aboriginal people to their culture and heritage. The largest grant, $30,940, went to the Missanabie First Nation in Garden River, Ont. near Sault Ste. Marie to hire a family support worker who will develop a healing strategy for residential school survivors.

Sharing experiences

Reports on the effects of the residential school experience point to family breakdown, alcohol and drug abuse.

An essential part of the healing process often involves sharing experiences with other school survivors and with members of the wider community, said Esther Wesley, indigenous healing fund coordinator for General Synod, in an interview.

"It helps to get it out of your system," she said. "Lots of people have never told their stories. Especially in the case of sexual abuse, you need to find someone you can trust to talk to, then you can go on with life."

The first healing grants -- totalling $250,000 -- were approved by the National Executive Council, the precursor to today's Council of General Synod, in December, 1991.

The vote followed a meeting earlier that year where council members for the first time listened to the stories of two residential school survivors and recommended that the church ask native people for forgiveness and support healing. In 1993, the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, apologized for harm done to natives who attended Anglican boarding schools.

Full-time manager

Last March, Mrs. Wesley became the healing fund's first full-time manager. Previously, it was administered as part of the work of Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Donna Bomberry. …