Canada's Anglican Church - On the Road to Reconciliation

Dec 20, 2002 05:25 PM EST

CANADA - The Anglican Church of Canada will continue to serve society and forge new bonds with the aboriginal Indians in Canada. The agreement between the government and the church, asks for all 30 Anglican dioceses to ratify and agree to contribute $25 million to a settlement fund over a five year period, in exchange for ending the church's costly litigation and liability charges. Many believe the agreement will act as the impetus for reconciliation between the Anglican Church and the natives.

The Anglican Church of Canada was involved in residential schools from 1820 to 1969. The first contracts were signed between the Government of Canada and a number of dioceses, and since 1921, the churches of Canada assumed the contracts.

"In the words of the Bishop of Keewatin, a person with experience of the schools decades ago and a partner in dialogue with many former students, this was not a good system with a few bad people in it, but a deeply flawed system with many good people in it," Peers, wrote. "In 1969 we abandoned participation in the schools, and began to forge a new relationship with aboriginal Canadians that would be rooted in justice, solidarity, and mutuality.

"More than twenty years later, former students of the schools began to come forward, alleging abuse at the hands of those in authority in the schools. Those allegations have prompted our church to come to terms with two painful realities. First, our partnership with the government in seeking the assimilation of aboriginal Canadians was itself a profound error. Second, some within the schools used their power to take advantage of the vulnerability of children," the primate wrote.

In November, the Anglican Church of Canada and the government of Canada reached agreement on a settlement of validated claims of sexual and physical abuse in schools administered by the Anglican Church. "We are asking each diocese to consider the proposed agreement, and to make a financial commitment to the settlement fund," Peers said. Several dioceses have already ratified the agreement, and at least four dioceses that have ratified the agreement had no formal relationship with any of the schools, and therefore no legal liability. "That we recognize both a common 'moral liability' and a common vocation to ministry and mission in our society, whether or not we are directly and legally affected by the schools issue, is surely one of the strengths of this Anglican Church of Canada," said Peers.

"This settlement is not about 'getting out of' anything," the letter emphasized. "It is instead a way of getting more deeply into the healing and reconciliation by which we can both strengthen our own common life and extend that life into mission in our society."

By Paulina C.