Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation co-ordinator Esther Wesley has welcomed a recent decision by Council of General Synod (CoGS) that will allow the fund to continue operating with its administrative costs covered by money returned to General Synod through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
As part of the amended settlement agreement, $2,764,300 from the Anglican church had been held in reserve against the possibility of the Roman Catholic Church entities reaching their “best efforts” fundraising goal of $25 million over a seven-year period. Anglicans would have been required to partially match those funds if the Catholic campaign had reached $11.08 million by September 2014.
The Corporation of Catholic entities’ fundraising campaign brought in much less-$3,742,787, according to Archbishop Archbishop Gérard Pettipas of the archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan in Alberta. The fundraising campaign was part of a $79 million commitment reached by 50 Catholic entities in an out-of-court settlement agreement. The other portion of the agreement includes a commitment to pay $29 million cash contributions, and $25 million “in kind services” over a 10-year period.
While most of the Anglican church’s $2,764,300 reserve fund came from dioceses, $324,834 had come from General Synod-the church’s governing body-and it was this money that Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, suggested be put toward the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation’s costs. Council of General Synod (CoGS) unanimously approved the recommendation during its meeting in November.
Wesley said costs range from printing and mailing educational resources to visiting the often quite remote Indigenous communities across Canada. Travel is essential to the work of the fund, which provides grant money to projects seeking to foster education and healing for communities and individuals affected by the Indian residential school system, said Wesley in an interview.
“The major part, for me, I have learned over the years, is creating relationships for the church with the Aboriginal communities,” she said. “It’s the fact that someone is there, someone from the church is there and cares about what people are doing. That’s the important part of the whole work.”
Established by the Anglican Church of Canada in 1991, the fund has spent about $6 million for projects that promote healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans.
“Funding for the administrative costs…for the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation came from the settlement fund at the permission of the federal government,” Thompson explained before CoGS voted on the recommendation. “[But] the settlement fund now has no money in it, so we can’t ask the government for permission any longer to take money from that fund.”
Thompson noted that Wesley has travelled extensively to raise awareness about the fund. “She has been an incredibly important ambassador for the church in those communities, who you can imagine might sometimes have trouble receiving a church representative with gladness,” he said.
Wesley said that while her work is not always easy, she has seen it bear fruit.
“I get to meet a lot of people, I get to listen to a lot of stories. I find many people are very, very giving,” she said. “Yes, I still meet with anger, but I just listen…we get through it, and oftentimes when the anger is spoken, then we begin our relationship. It’s up and down …but it does work-I’ve seen it work.”