Original URL:   http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/21/international/americas/21ANGL.html?ex=1038891518&ei=1&en=15b60564de6e7404

Canada Caps Abuse Claims Against Anglicans

By REUTERS
The New York Times
November 20, 2002

OTTAWA, Nov. 20 The government announced a pioneering accord today that could save the Anglican Church of Canada from being bankrupted by rising abuse claims from Indians who attended church-run residential schools.

The agreement, which aims to speed a resolution of the long-running issue, caps the liability of the Anglican Church at $25 million (Canadian), or $16 million.

"The agreement preserves the financial integrity of the Anglican Church," said Ralph Goodale, the federal minister responsible for resolving the claims.

Twelve thousand Indians, of the 90,000 former residential school pupils who are still alive, have filed claims against Ottawa and various churches, mostly alleging physical or sexual abuse. The schools were financed by the government but run by the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches.

New claims come in at 120 to 130 a month.

The boarding schools were set up to provide education for Indian children in areas with sparse populations. But many who attended the schools, often against their will, have said there was systematic physical and mental abuse at the institutions. Most were shut by the mid-1970's, and the last closed in 1996.

Five hundred sixty settlements have been reached, most often in cases where there have been criminal convictions. "There are obviously evidentiary challenges in reconstructing history that is a long time ago," Mr. Goodale said.

Most claims also charge loss of language or culture, where, for example, students were required to speak English only. The government has fought any compensation for such claims, preferring instead to implement programs to restore native culture and languages.

The Anglican Church represents 18 percent of the abuse cases. The Roman Catholic Church accounts for 73 percent, the United Church 8 percent and Presbyterian Church of Canada 1 percent.

For those cases involving the Anglican Church, the government will pay 70 percent of settlements and the church 30 percent. In addition, if the church's payments reach the settlement limit, Ottawa will be liable for all claims after that point.

Mr. Goodale said it was not certain that the Roman Catholic, United and Presbyterian churches would agree to the same formula.

The huge settlements had threatened to swamp the Anglican Church of Canada. Archbishop Michael Peers said the $25 million limit represented far more than the assets of the central body of the church. An Anglican diocese in British Columbia has been forced to cease operations because of the costs of litigation and settlements.

Under the agreement, which now goes to the 30 Anglican dioceses for ratification, the wealthier dioceses would agree to share the financial responsibility with the poorer ones, where the schools were often located.


 

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