Church, Diocese Fight Abuse Lawsuits: Government Ran Schools, Church Says

Article excerpt

STAFF WRITER

Toronto

Controversy over church-run native residential schools could erupt again as the Anglican Church of Canada defends itself against two potentially costly lawsuits by former students - one in British Columbia, the other in Ontario.

The suits are the first filed against the church because of its connection with residential schools. In 1993, the church apologized for the detrimental effects of its role in residential schools. But it is fighting these lawsuits because it says the federal government, not the church, ran the two institutions, St. George's Residence in Lytton, B.C., and Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont.

"The MSCC (Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada) ran several residential schools," said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of the national church, "but at no time did it operate Mohawk or Lytton."

The Diocese of Cariboo could face a financial crunch if a lawsuit launched by Floyd Mowatt is successful. One of 10 financially assisted member dioceses of the Council of the North, it has just eight self-supporting parishes.

Mr. Mowatt, 37, who lived at St. George's Residence from 1965 to 1977, is suing the church, the Diocese of Cariboo, the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and Derek Clarke, a former dormitory supervisor at St. George's, for an unspecified amount in damages.

The former student alleges Mr. Clarke sexually assaulted him on a number of occasions between 1965 and 1970. He is holding the national church, the diocese and the federal minister responsible because the government contracted the church to run the school, which in turn hired Mr. Clarke.

Mr. Mowatt also claims the church failed to investigate Mr. Clarke's background. Mr. Clarke was convicted of sexual assault in 1988.

Specified by Mr. Mowatt are that he suffered "serious, lasting and permanent personal injuries, including nervous shock, anxiety, depression, emotional trauma, personality change" and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Archdeacon Boyles said the church's defence will be the same in both cases: that the schools were owned and operated by the federal Department of Indian Affairs and an entity known as the New England Company - not the Anglican Church. …