Church May Appeal Share of Damages

Article excerpt

The Anglican Church has paid the victim in the first residential schools judgment against the church.

The General Synod -- the church's national body -- has paid both its and the Diocese of Cariboo's share of damages to the plaintiff in the case involving a sexual-abuse victim who attended St. George's Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C.

But both are still considering appealing the decision that found the church responsible for 60 per cent of damages owed.

If an appeal is successful, the money would be recovered from the federal government, not the victim.

An appeal would not be about the total amount of damages- they were agreed on before the civil trial. What the church is considering challenging is how much, if anything, it owes, as opposed to the federal government. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon found Ottawa responsible for the other 40 per cent of the undisclosed award. The perpetrator of the crime was found guilty in an earlier criminal trial and is currently in jail. He was a federal civil servant at the time of the offences.

"We had expected that more responsibility would be assigned to the government since it owned the school, funded its operation and was primarily responsible for appointing the principal and staff," Archdeacon Jim Boyles said in a press release from the church's official news agency.

The judgment also takes "a rather confusing approach in lumping together the General Synod and the Diocese of Cariboo as `the church,'" he said. "Failing to distinguish between them is like failing to distinguish between the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, on the grounds that it's all `the government.'"

The school in Lytton was never owned by the church. An English missionary company established it in 1901. However, the bishop of Cariboo had influence in nominating senior staff to the school and the school was treated as a parish of the diocese. Although the perpetrator of the sexual abuse was a caregiver, his supervisor was the principal and an Anglican deacon, later a priest. The principal was also suspected of abusing children although he was cleared of such charges at a trial before his death.

General Synod is getting independent legal advice on whether to appeal the Aug. 30 ruling. The insurance company that covers General Synod's legal expenses in the case also urged the church to file the notice of appeal, the church's general secretary, Archdeacon Boyles, said in the news release.

Costs of an appeal could approach $50,000 and General Synod has been negotiating with its insurer to cover those costs if it proceeds. The Diocese of Cariboo has no such insurance.

Cariboo should be able to come up with its half of the church's bill for this case but that will likely exhaust its financial reserves, said regional archbishop David Crawley, speaking on behalf of the diocese. With several more cases outstanding involving the former residence supervisor Derek Clarke, and no insurance coverage to help, the diocese does not know how it could pay any future bills.

Cariboo has set up a task force which is investigating "various legal aspects of what happens when they run out of money and can't pay for the judgments if further judgments come along," Archbishop Crawley said.

"The people of Cariboo are enormously faithful to God and to their church and they will see that (the life of the church) carries on," he said. "I think that they're responding quite bravely."

General Synod is also getting legal advice on what assets are protected and what monies are available to pay for any future settlements, Archdeacon Boyles said in an interview. That includes settlements that could be reached through so-called alternative dispute resolution, an avenue that would avoid court.

The church's pension fund, that covers all clergy and some lay staff, is protected. …