Magazine article The Christian Century

Lawsuits Force Cuts for Canadian Anglicans

Magazine article The Christian Century

Lawsuits Force Cuts for Canadian Anglicans

Article excerpt

In the face of hundreds of lawsuits seeking damages for the church's role in administering residential schools where there is evidence of cultural and sexual abuse of children, the Anglican Church in Canada has begun to cut its staff and program, according to the Episcopal News Service.

The church began to lay off staff on August 14 and cut more than half a million dollars in grants to support ministry in the northern part of the country and overseas. Eight full-time staff, out of a total of 125, are leaving now, with additional layoffs likely in the coming months. Budget cuts are 11 percent of the church's annual budget of $10.9 million. "With these reductions we will balance our operating expenditures in the current year," said Jim Boyles, the church's general secretary, "but our assets will continue to be depleted to pay for litigation costs."

The church's General Synod and eight of its dioceses have been named in about 350 lawsuits claiming cultural, physical and sexual abuse at residential schools run for indigenous children. Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United churches participated with the government in running the schools until 1969. At that time the Anglican Church committed itself to a new relationship with indigenous people, establishing a Healing and Reconciliation Fund in 1991 when the reports of abuse began to emerge. Despite cuts in the national budget, support for the fund will double, increasing from $262,000 to $547,000 annually. The fund is administered by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples.

Boyles said that the church is continuing its efforts to convince the government to stop pursuing lawsuits as its primary response to the more than 7,000 individuals who are seeking compensation. "We agree with the Law Commission of Canada that a redress mechanism would offer a better means of meeting the needs of people who were harmed in the schools," said Boyles. "We have told the government that we could make a substantial commitment, both financially and in other ways, to supporting such a redress program."

Boyles admitted that the church is considering bankruptcy protection that would give it time to seek ways to meet the financial crisis while continuing its mission. "But our favored option is to find agreement with the government to allow the church to remain in operation." The church has already warned the government that it would run out of money next year unless the government assumed a share of its legal expenses.

Most dioceses are independently incorporated and won't be touched by the lawsuits. …

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