Church Apologies and Reconciliation (58-61): Current Problems

In-Kind Payments

July 16, 2021

Catholic Church

Court officials refuse to release Catholic Church document describing “In-Kind Services”

CBC – A Roman Catholic Church document claiming the church provided $25 million of “in-kind services” to residential school survivors is sitting inside a Regina courthouse, but officials are refusing to release it. The document is said to outline “in-kind services” that the church agreed to provide as part of a deal reached with the federal government to compensate survivors of residential schools in Canada. The Catholic Church, the only party refusing to sign the main agreement, reached a side deal with Ottawa. Dozens of lawyers hired by the 48 Catholic entities eventually signed.

Those entities included various dioceses and archdioceses in Canada and orders of priests and nuns that operated some of the schools. The three other churches that operated schools — United, Anglican and Presbyterian — signed the original deal and paid full compensation years ago without incident.
The Catholic Church made three promises to survivors, totalling $79 million.

  • A $29-million cash payment. Most of that appears to have been paid, with the church securing a court order in 2015 that it had to pay only $1.2 million of what was remaining.
  • Secondly, the church agreed to give “best efforts” at fundraising $25 million. Less than $4 million of that was paid to survivors. Citing the “best efforts” clause, a Saskatchewan judge absolved the church of further fundraising in that same 2015 case. Following a recent CBC News investigation, church boycott calls and revelations that more than $300 million was devoted during this period to cathedral and church construction, bishops across Canada announced a renewed fundraising campaign to be launched this fall.
  • Thirdly, the Catholic Church was allowed to claim the final $25 million as “in-kind services.” The agreement specified that the services should directly benefit survivors and their descendants. Wider community projects could also qualify, but they were not the focus.

December 21, 2021

Catholic Church

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller open to an independent review of the residential school compensation deal

CBC – Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller says he’s “absolutely open” to an independent review of the residential school compensation deal reached between the federal government and Catholic Church….Advocates say while that’s encouraging news, Miller could show good faith by immediately releasing key government documents related to the deal he admits are already in his possession.

Any review or inquiry must include full, public document disclosure and the power to compel witnesses to testify, said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia. “It has to be all or nothing. We need accountability. That’s what survivors want. We owe it to them,” Turpel-Lafond said. “A lot of this still doesn’t add up.”

September 28, 2021

Catholic Church

Examination of “in-kind log raises questions about legitimacy of services delivered

Globe and Mail – Documents obtained by the Globe and Mail through an access-to-information request to the federal government include an “in-kind log.” It contains brief descriptions of the services provided by Catholic entities. Those services were required under a national residential schools settlement reached between Indigenous groups, former students, the federal government and religious organizations in 2006.

The log, last updated in Sept., 2011, lists in-kind services including training for pastors, “community work,” outreach services and a biblical studies program. It is unclear from the descriptions whether these were services the church would already have been providing absent the settlement. It is also unclear to what degree the services were directed toward Indigenous peoples.

All told, nearly half of the 192 log entries list “community work and presence” by a pastor or religious sister. Some entries do not specify whether the listed services took place in Indigenous communities. Other log entries include participation by one bishop and two priests in a healing pilgrimage, participation in a conference, and support for a pilgrimage to the Vatican.

Critics say the settlement process lacked transparency and a clear focus on survivors’ needs, and that a full review of past church obligations is warranted. Aideen Nabigon, former director general of policy and partnerships for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, who reviewed the log, said many of the in-kind services entries look like charity work the church would have been performing anyway, rather than efforts directly tied to reconciliation. “It’s just completely against the spirit of the settlement agreement, which was supposed to be about reconciliation,” she said.

There should be a sweeping review of how the settlement obligations were created, how they were carried out and accounted for, and why the government released the church from its commitments, said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a law professor and academic director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia. This should include a full release of all related documents, she added. She has filed access requests on this topic and waited years for responses.

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