The Anglican Church of Canada will release an additional $125,000 to help defray the costs of providing Indian residential schools-related documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
The Council of General Synod (CoGS), at its spring meeting March 14, approved a resolution that this money be drawn from unrestricted surplus funds of the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada (MSCC). The MSCC — composed of CoGS members — approved a resolution making the money available for this purpose.
Up to $30,000 of the amount will support dioceses in meeting their legal obligations to provide archival documents as part of the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). The remaining $95,000 will go towards creating a digital version of documents that will be made accessible to the public through the National Research Centre, which the TRC will establish.
The funds are over and above the $50,000 that the General Synod Archives estimates it will need to spend to provide the documents.
Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the national church’s general secretary, told CoGS that the additional contribution goes beyond what the church is required to do under the settlement agreement.
He explained that under the IRSSA, churches could request the TRC to pay the costs of copying the residential schools documents on their archives. It had made such a request in the summer of 2012. However, churches and other parties to the agreement have been informed by the TRC that its funds are not sufficient to complete its mandate, and it has asked for their assistance.
“The context for their request includes mixed reviews of the [TRC] and its work…There is disagreement about the effectiveness of its work and its stewardship among Canadians, including among indigenous Canadians,” said Thompson in a written explanation distributed to CoGS members. “Some understand it is a government agency, and at times it can appear in that light. It is funded almost entirely by the Government of Canada, and there are concerns in some places that the Government is not fulfilling its obligation to fund the Commission’s work adequately.”
However, the church has decided to respond positively to the request not only because it seeks to honour its legal obligation but also out of its “solemn moral obligation” to former residential schools students and their families, as well as their communities. It also arises from the conviction that “the more widely the legacy of the schools is known, the more complete will be the healing so desperately needed both within indigenous communities and among all the peoples who are, together, Canada,” said Thompson. [For more than 150 years, about 180,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were removed from their homes and sent to federally-funded schools managed by Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and United churches. The Anglican Church of Canada operated over 30 residential schools across Canada.]
Thompson said the request for additional funds has been made “slightly easier” by the fact that not as much reserves will be needed to bridge General Synod’s anticipated deficit for 2012. But, added Thompson, even if this wasn’t the case, he would have still brought the TRC’s request forward.
Marites N. Sison is editor of the Anglican Journal.
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