(OTTAWA) The government had agreed to release Catholic agencies “forever” from their promise to raise $25 million for victims of boarding schools for indigenous children, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.
Posted 10:35am Updated 11:42am
Stephanie Taylor The Canadian Press
He had also agreed to pay her legal fees.
The Canadian press obtained a signed copy of the 2015 agreement by the Federal Access to Information Act. It appears that this is the first time this document has been published.
“These are very, very important documents,” said Ry Moran, Associate Librarian and founder of the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation. “Whenever we talk about responsibility, these questions arise: Who made the decision? how was it received? Who signed it? »
Experts and Indigenous leaders have long wondered why the federal government refused to appeal a 2015 court ruling that exempted Catholic groups from their obligation to raise $25 million for survivors of the home school system for Indigenous children.
According to the documents, federal officials had appealed a month after Judge Neil Gabrielson’s decision while they negotiated a final settlement with the Catholic groups.
On October 30, 2015, the agreement was approved and signed by a former Deputy Minister of the former Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
The deal is among more than 200 pages of documents reserved for Crown Indigenous Relations Secretary Marc Miller after he promised to find out why the government had not appealed the case. These government documents have been partially or fully redacted.
Mr. Miller has already expressed his openness to reconsidering the Canadian government’s decision.
However, the “permanent release” approved by the Canadian government and the broad language of the agreement raise doubts as to whether this is possible.
“The Secretary is keen to understand the circumstances and events that led to the then-government dropping the appeal,” Miller’s office said Friday. He is even more determined to ensure the Catholic Church is held accountable. »
A spokesman referred the issue of legal fees to the Justice Department.
Authorities at the time feared that Catholic groups would try to further shirk their financial and even non-financial responsibilities.
“When discussions result in the number of financial commitments [auxquelles les groupes sont astreints] is limited to three, Canada will not appeal,” said a September 2015 document, which included the illegible signature of a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s former Conservative government.
Canada was in the midst of an election campaign at the time.
Mr Miller says the signature is that of Bernard Valcourt, Stephen Harper’s former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
According to the document, relieving the groups of some of their non-financial obligations “could pose a risk to Canada.”
“It would be of particular concern if Canada were to relieve Catholic entities of certain obligations, such as B. Working together to resolve any complaints of abuse at an Indigenous boarding school that are not included in the Settlement. »
The document also claims that Canada will be “back to square one” if it appeals the case.
Ken Young, former First Nations Assembly chief and former resident, doubts the federal government won the case.
“Canada should have asked until the hens gave their teeth,” he points out. We have entered a new phase. »
Young has criticized the Catholic Church’s previous statements that fundraising depended on “their best efforts,” and says he believes leaders have learned the lesson.
He points to the pledge made in September 2021 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to raise $30 million nationwide over five years. By July, 4.6 million had been received.
Mr. Young believes the bishops will keep their word. In his opinion, given the wealth of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, he believes fundraising is unnecessary.
“Let’s sign a check now. We don’t have to bother the parishioners with that,” he says.