Ottawa let Catholic Church off the hook for millions in residential school compensation

The source of an April 2016 Globe and Mail report outlining a mistake by federal government lawyers which allowed the Catholic Church to escape paying $21 million in obligations to the Residential School Settlement Agreement, now says that number is actually millions of dollars higher.

Executive Producer

Paul has been described by the Ryerson Review of Journalism as “one of Canada’s best Aboriginal affairs investigative reporters.” He won the Journalists for Human Rights annual Lifetime Achievement award in 2016. Prior to joining APTN, Paul served as national news editor/senior writer for Windspeaker, an Edmonton-based Aboriginal news publication distributed nationally. His stint with Windspeaker began in 1997, after nearly five years with the Six Nations weekly newspaper Tekawennake.


5 thoughts on “Ottawa let Catholic Church off the hook for millions in residential school compensation

  1. The Catholic Churches were supposed to provide $54 million ($29 million from cash obligations and $25 million). The Hon. Dr. Carolyn Bennett told the House of Commons (paraphrased) that the cash was never meant to be paid directly to survivors in the form of compensation. The Agreement provides that it was payable to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (the “Foundation”).” The Foundation and its successor organization actually received $16,124,340, according to their audited financial statements which are available for anyone to read on the internet. Therefore the victims were shortchanged $37,875,660. You do not have to be an accountant or auditor to understand such simple material.

    I am surprised that the Church does not understand how I get my numbers. Twice the government asked me to contact the Church’s lawyer to find out how much it had actually paid, even though the Government is responsible for enforcing the Agreement. The Church’s lawyer could have easily put its spokesman in contact with me.

    The Government continues to be evasive and deceptive when it attributes part of the missing $38 million to payments to the the Returning to Spirit charitable organization. That organization’s website shows that in its most recent financial year it ran one workshop that was attended by 202 people. That workshop was funded by four organizations. How much of the missing money do payments to Returning to Spirit charitable organization represent?

    This article is the first public disclosure of the $8.4 million reduction that the Government secretly gave the Church. The Government lost another $21,298,600 in a court case. That means the Government and the Church have still not disclosed another $8,177,060.

    I am the only source of public disclosure of all these shortcomings. So much for the government heeding Justice Warren Winkler warning that the government was in a unique position of administering an out-of-court settlement in which it had been a defendant and needed to take extreme steps to be open and transparent.

  2. How committed to healing can the Catholic church be that upon a government lawyer’s error, the Catholic church takes advantage and relieves itself of it’s debt and obligation to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation? How can that be the ‘right thing’? The Protestant church could have walked away too but chose not to.
    I am not surprised the priest was ashamed that the ‘best efforts’ fundraising proved dismal, nor am I surprised that “there was resentment in many quarters” about supporting the ‘best efforts’ fundraising campaign. While the Protestant, Anglican and United churches are making an effort, the Catholic church is still failing Indigenous people and it’s own congregations by not shedding light on the truth and reality of it’s history of abuse. Thus, abuse continues and litigation increases.

  3. I do not understand the manner by which the release was given to the Catholic Church entities, and under whose authority, to supposedly allow all that funding to survivors, for cultural and mental health support, to be waived under a Settlement Agreement. One lawyer in Department of Justice can sign a release that re-writes the settlement agreement obligations? Defendants can release each other without all parties to the IRSSA agreeing to that amendment? There is no legal authority for that, unless the Government lawyers agreed that the Government defendant would instead pay the survivors. St. Anne’s Survivors could certainly use all or part of that missing $23.5 million to help heal from the horrific abuse they suffered as children at that Catholic IRS, which continues to impact them as adults and their families. The Courts agreed when passing the IRSSA into law, to enforce the IRSSA, but unfortunately, the Courts now treat this like private litigation that class members must enforce on their own. Nothing has really changed. Those parties with the greatest resources and influence, continue to control this justice system.

  4. Omar Khadr received millions of dollars in compensation from the Federal Government for having his rights being violated.Further,each individual who faced abuse and had his civil rights violated in the Residential Schools system should be entitled to similar compensation.Pay up!

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