The diocese of Ontario is planning to put the $115,000 that was returned to it under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement to support First Nations-related projects in a variety of ways, including ministry in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont.
“We want to prioritize that ministry,” Bishop Michael Oulton said in an interview. “I think if we can support that…it becomes a very powerful witness to the wider community.”
Since late 2015, when the national church started returning settlement agreement funds to the dioceses, many of them have announced plans to use the funds for Indigenous ministry. The diocese of Ontario, which covers a triangle of land centred on Kingston, was no exception, deciding that the funds must go entirely toward issues related to First Nations communities and reconciliation, Oulton said. Last October, the diocese donated about 5% of the returned money to an annual arts festival held on the territory. As a result of the diocese’s contribution, organizers were able to expand the festival with a musical portion, including a music-writing competition.
The diocese is also using returned residential school settlement money to fund ministry in Tyendinaga, the only Indigenous parish in the diocese.
After its incumbent priest departed for the diocese of Toronto in 2015, the parish of Tyendinaga found it could no longer afford full-time ministry. However, with the diocese’s help, the parish was able to hire a married couple to take over. Canon Rod BrantFrancis was named last fall as the new incumbent, and his wife, the Rev. Lisa BrantFrancis, was hired as priest associate.
Between 15 and 20% of the returned funds will be paid to the parish every year for the next several years, says Alex Pierson, the diocese’s interim executive officer.
The hope is that over the next couple of years, Tyendinaga will once again be a financially self-sufficient parish, as it had been for hundreds of years previously, says Rod BrantFrancis.
“We certainly hope to be able to build bridges across the community, and even across the diocese,” he says. “We hope to be able to work in conjunction with other community organizations and really to be agents of reconciliation and healing in the community.”
The diocese is still working out uses for the remaining returned funds. One possible use for the rest of this money, Oulton says, might be to provide help—pastoral support, for example—for Indigenous people coming from northern communities to Kingston for medical services.
The return of the settlement funds is traceable to the federal government’s settlement with the Roman Catholic Church in 2007. As part of this settlement, it was agreed that $2.76 million of the Anglican Church of Canada’s $15.7-million obligation under the agreement would be set aside, pending the results of a seven-year fundraising campaign by the Roman Catholic Church.
By the time the Roman Catholic campaign ended in September 2014, it had raised much less money than originally hoped. As a result, the Anglican national church returned most of the $2.76 million to the dioceses, which had raised it, and gave the portion of the $2.76 million that had been raised by the national church—$325,000—to the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation.