Magazine article Anglican Journal

Council Must Now Choose Its Path Carefully

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Council Must Now Choose Its Path Carefully

Article excerpt

IN THE MIDDLE of a three-month-long deep freeze in this part of the world, it is difficult to reconcile this month with the coming spring and Easter. Still, it is without a doubt a time for new beginnings.

With last month's signing of an agreement on residential schools litigation between the federal government and the Anglican Church of Canada, both now have the opportunity for a new relationship with indigenous people.

What a pity, then, that the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) has now disassociated itself from that agreement, saying the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process covered by the accord further victimizes those who were abused.

The council met with the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, just one day before the signing ceremony to ask him not to sign the agreement. Council members said they oppose the proposed ADR process because of its invasive questions (intended to assess the level of abuse suffered) and because survivors are required to waive all future claims for loss of language and culture in order to secure a settlement for physical and sexual abuse.

The council made its case in a statement sent to most media an hour after the signing ceremony.

The ADR process and the details of the release form are not set in stone. The church is not satisfied with the early drafts and will continue to press for changes. The primate said as much at the signing ceremony.

While the ADR is still a work in progress, the council condemned the proposed condition requiring complainants to agree not to sue in the future for loss of language and culture. ACIP expressed its fear that waiving the right to any future claims extinguishes "our aboriginal rights to our languages, cultures, and traditions."

Besides being standard practice in legal settlements, out of court or not, this condition cannot come as a surprise. The government and the church have said repeatedly that they believe the courts are not the appropriate forum to address these issues, but rather, both have committed funds to language and culture recovery programs. The Anglican Church of Canada has spent more than $1 million on healing projects over the last decade, including culture and language preservation, and the federal government has committed nearly half a billion dollars to aboriginal language and cultural initiatives over the next 10 years. …

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