Current Problems

Church Apologies and Reconciliation (58-61)

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

September 28, 2021

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.