Magazine article Anglican Journal

Little Progress in Talks (over Residential Schools): Finances Show Improvement

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Little Progress in Talks (over Residential Schools): Finances Show Improvement

Article excerpt

The national church's financial situation has shown a slight improvement, mainly due to technical factors, but negotiations with the federal government over limiting liability from residential schools lawsuits continue to move at a slow pace.

However, a government spokesperson conceded in a recent interview, that Ottawa has virtually stopped adding churches to lawsuits as third parties, a key request the churches have been making.

Representatives of the four churches involved in the lawsuits, including The Anglican Church of Canada, met in Ottawa with federal negotiator Jack Stagg for a full day on Sept. 27, said Archdeacon Jim Boyles, Anglican general secretary and chair of the church group.

Both sides agreed not to comment on the content of the talks. "The churches and the government have agreed to keep a low profile," said Cindy Clegg, a spokesperson for Mr. Stagg. However, she added, "The federal government is very optimistic that we will have an agreement."

She also noted that the Justice Department has virtually ceased adding the churches to lawsuits naming the government as a defendant, as a good-faith gesture.

Mr. Boyles commented, "We continued our discussions and negotiations. They are sensitive negotiations and it's not helpful to negotiate through the media. We will report more publicly at some point whether they succeed or fail," he said in an interview.

It was the fifth negotiating session since Mr. Stagg was appointed by the Prime Minister in June to carry out the federal cabinet's mandate that the residential schools issue - which threatens to bankrupt the national Anglican church and other church groups -- be resolved.

The churches are seeking to have the government limit their liability. Hundreds of aboriginal Canadians are suing the federal government and various entities of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, United and Presbyterian churches, claiming damages for abuse suffered in a national residential school system that operated from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s.

According to published reports, the government is seeking to have the churches pay a portion of estimated liability (the figure of $95 million for the Anglican church has appeared in news reports, but not been confirmed), and the churches say they are unable to pay such huge amounts. The churches also would like "credit" for the many therapy programs they are supporting in native communities.

"The topics are difficult. …

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