Obligation to Native residential schools should be honoured
April 28, 2016
Money can bring out the worst in people. This shouldn’t be a surprise because it has been happening for centuries.
The most recent example is the Catholic Church’s allegedly reneging on an obligation to pay $25 million toward healing and reconciliation programs for the survivors of Indian residential schools.
Apparently, a federal lawyer in the last administration, allegedly made an error legally allowing the church to walk away from their “best efforts” to raise $25 million in donations.
This obligation was one of the components of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action deal in Canadian legal history.
The federal government has already paid the lion’s share of the billion dollar settlement. The 50 Catholic organizations, known as the Catholic Entities, who ran the schools, were also required to pay reparations.
The issue that has everyone pointing fingers is whether the current federal government should pick up the $25 million tab, or should the church honour its obligation.
In times past, the intent of an agreement was the guiding principle. Obligations were discussed and finalized with a handshake.
What happened to the children in those residential schools was horrific. In a perfect world this would not have occurred.
Unfortunately we cannot rewrite history.
What is in our control is how we acknowledge and compensate those adversely affected by Canada’s dark history.
I believe what is right, is the Catholic Church honour its obligation. What is wrong, is for institutions to hide behind a legal technicality caused by a federal lawyer’s mistake.
Last week there were comments from various groups involved in this disagreement.
To me, they rang a little hollow.
Of the $25 million in donations the Catholic Entities was to raise over the seven year campaign, only $3.7 million was raised.
My opinion is the Catholic Church has the ability to raise funds and their success rate at only collecting $3.7 million could only mean that the effort required was not there.
I believe the Catholic Church is a wealthy organization and has the financial resources to write a cheque for $25 million.
Canada’s Indigenous Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett, has an opinion.
She said the Catholic Church groups are morally obligated to meet their commitment to the survivors.
We agree with Bennett’s comment that this issue will be decided in the court of public opinion.
It would be a bigger mistake for the church not to honour the original intent of the agreement.
Yes, money can bring out the worst in people, but it can also bring out the best. In this case it can go a long way in helping to support the survivors. To help them heal.
It’s time for the Catholic Church to honour its obligation.