Critics slam Catholic Church for spending after pledge to residential school survivors was breached

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DISCLAIMER: This story contains distressing details

A growing choir across Canada is asking the Catholic Church to pay the full $ 25 million it pledged to residential school survivors, saying it’s a shame the money remains unpaid as dozens of millions are spent on elaborate religious buildings.

CBC News has learned that a $ 17 million fundraising campaign is currently underway for cathedral renovations and new construction in the Archdiocese of Regina. This is in addition to a $ 16 million shrine / church that opened last year in Canmore, Alta., The $ 28.5 million cathedral built in Saskatoon less than ten years ago and to other capital projects across the country.

The church, which ran many residential schools across Canada, has come under increasing pressure for rendition and transparency since what are believed to be unmarked burial sites of children’s remains were recently unearthed on or near old school sites in Kamloops, BC, and Cowessess First Nation, east of Regina. A similar discovery was revealed in the southern interior of British Columbia on Wednesday.

“I think this is very disappointing. The Catholic Church has a lot of work to do to make amends,” said Mayo Moran, president and vice-chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

“The least he can do is honor his commitments.”

Former University of Toronto Dean Mayo Moran is one of many who say the church must honor its original $ 25 million pledge to residential school survivors. (Nicole Ireland / CBC)

The church agreed to pay $ 25 million for the school’s survivors in a landmark settlement in 2005. The deal required the church to do “its best” and launch a similar fundraising campaign to that of a university or a hospital.

After seven years, less than $ 4 million had been raised nationally. Lawyers for the church argued in a secret hearing that she had made every effort and a judge agreed, freeing the church from any further fundraising. The results of the hearing were released months later.

Incomplete payment is “an absolute embarrassment”. said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents Saskatchewan First Nations.

“All efforts should go to helping survivors and their families, not buildings.”

Moran, who spent 15 years chairing the Indian Residential School Survivors Compensation Committee, says spending millions on cathedrals and churches “casts doubt” on the church’s claim that it did its best. better to help survivors.

She said Pope Francis has been progressive on climate change and other issues, but he and Vatican officials haven’t done enough on abuse and residential school issues.

Saskatoon Catholics raised $ 28.5 million to build this cathedral in 2012. (Jason Warick / CBC)

“You can see a tendency to avoid financial liability and extreme litigation. It doesn’t reflect the church well,” Moran said.

In the Archdiocese of Regina, staff, volunteers and contractors have been working for two years on the $ 17 million campaign to renovate the Holy Rosary Cathedral and build a ministry center.

“We have now received a total of $ 6.58 million in donations and pledges and we expect that number to increase as donors are inspired to support the campaign… Together we can make it happen! Read a letter from campaign chairs on the Archdiocese’s website.

The website also contains detailed instructions for individual parishes wishing to build or renovate. He recommends that church members “identify a need for multiple donors to donate over $ 10,000 for your campaign to be successful.”

The website says the four keys to success are “prayer, pastor’s involvement, choice of people [and] public relations / communications. “

The Archdiocese hired the same professional fundraiser that helped Catholics in Saskatoon raise $ 28.5 million for a new cathedral.

The doors of St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral were painted in protest after the discovery on Thursday of 751 anonymous graves near the former Marieval Residential School on the Cowessess First Nation. (Donna Heimbecker / Facebook)

Archbishop Don Bolen was not available for an interview on Wednesday morning, but an official confirmed details of the campaign. Last week, following the find in Cowessess First Nation, Bolen said he hoped to restart fundraising for survivors. No details were announced and no money was committed at the last word.

In Saskatoon, Bishop Mark Hagemoen declined several interview requests, but in a statement on Wednesday morning he said he would “support a lot” more fundraising for survivors.

Both reiterated their apologies to the survivors for the central role of the Catholic Church in the management of many schools for over a century.

Moran and others say these vague statements make no sense. They say that Catholics in every parish in Canada must act.

“Catholics must push their church to do the right thing. All the pressure must be exerted. There are forces within the church that could be mobilized. There must be a lot of voices to push,” he said. Moran said.

Cameron and others have said that if Canadian churches and members refuse to help, the Vatican should pay. They point to the partial release of Vatican Bank records, which showed US $ 6 billion in assets, land holdings covering a total area larger than the province of Saskatchewan and the Vatican’s collection of paintings, sculptures and the like. Renaissance works of art.

All the other faiths that were part of the settlement – Anglican, United, Presbyterian – paid their full shares years ago.


Support is available for anyone affected by their residential school experience and for those triggered by the latest reports.

A National Residential Schools Crisis Line has been set up to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


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