Cabinet Tells (Herb) Gray to Settle: Peers Enters Negotiations for First Time
De Santis, Solange, Anglican Journal
Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray said the federal cabinet has told him to intensify negotiations with four churches over the residential schools crisis and bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.
Mr. Gray brought this news to a May meeting in Ottawa with a high-level Anglican delegation that included Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate. It was the most encouraging news for the churches since Mr. Gray became involved last fall. It is also the first time Archbishop Peers had become directly involved in talks with Mr. Gray.
Mr. Gray told the group that two days earlier, cabinet gave him a mandate to move from dialogue to formal discussions about the residential schools litigation, leading to an agreement. "I like to think we have moved quite a ways, but there is quite a way to go yet," Mr. Gray said in an interview with the Journal. He added that while he would like to see the matter move as quickly as possible, "it will not be resolved in a few days or a few weeks."
Mr. Gray said a briefing would take place within a few weeks, with representatives of the four churches involved in litigation. "We'll be talking about a number of things -- division of liability and responsibility," Mr. Gray said. Archbishop Peers noted that the Anglican church doesn't have a long time to wait. "From our point of view, everything depends on time. We really pressed the issue of time," said Archbishop Peers.
He said the group told Mr. Gray that the diocese of Cariboo is facing insolvency by October and that General Synod's financial condition continues to decline.
The Anglican church's national office has said that legal and settlement costs are rapidly draining its assets and that it could be insolvent this year if an agreement with the government is not reached.
The Ottawa meeting followed a request by Canadian bishops that Prime Minister Jean Chretien intervene personally in discussions between the church and the government. …