Indigenous leaders in NWT angry after Catholic groups freed from fundraising

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Indigenous leaders in the North say they are furious that a court ruling has allowed Catholic groups to opt out of raising tens of millions of dollars for healing programs for former residential school students.

The 2006 Indian Residential School Regulations required Catholic groups to pay compensation for their role in the abuse and trauma inflicted on thousands of Indigenous children.

The deal required Catholic entities to pay $ 29 million in cash to the now defunct Indigenous Healing Foundation, $ 25 million in “in-kind” services, and to try to raise $ 25 million for programs. healing for former students.

A monument in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, names approximately 300 children who died at the community’s Sacred Heart Mission school. (SRC)

Pierre Baribeau, an attorney for Catholic groups, told CBC that raising $ 25 million was only a goal and that the settlement agreement states that Catholic groups were only obligated to do “their own.” better “.

The Catholic entities managed to raise around $ 4 million of this $ 25 million goal.

“We have had a lot of trouble convincing state-owned companies to consider donating money to a foundation linked to the Catholic,” Baribeau said.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get as much as we might have expected. The efforts were there and a lot of money was also invested in the campaign.”

Federal lawyer did not intend to change the agreement

In 2013, when Catholic groups defaulted on $ 1.6 million in payment requirements to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the federal government sued the groups.

The lawyer for the Catholic entities, Gordon Kuski, and the lawyer for the federal government, Alexander Gay, have entered into negotiations in the hope of a settlement.

In court documents, Kuski proposed to the federal government that Catholic entities pay an additional $ 1.2 million and in turn be released from their obligation to continue fundraising for healing programs for former students.

In the documents, the federal government suggests that Kuski tricked Gay into this deal.

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus said, “Raising money doesn’t necessarily mean going to the public. It could mean going to the Vatican.

But a Saskatchewan judge ruled that responses from Gay and other federal lawyers led the Church to believe the deal was done. Gay said it was not his intention and that he would never agree to such a deal, but last year a judge ruled the deal was binding.

Baribeau says he disagrees with Gay’s testimony.

“The federal government put in writing, in black and white, what we were prepared to do so that there was no misstep here. And the court also says there is no faux pas here. It was clear from the start. “

“The Church is still hanging on”

Indigenous leaders in the North say that regardless of legal disputes, the Church owes even more to the Dene people who are still recovering from decades of residential school trauma.

“As far as we’re concerned, the Church is still hanging on,” said Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of the Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories.

Fort Providence was home to the Sacred Heart Mission, a Catholic boarding school.

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus said he didn’t believe Catholic groups were doing their best.

“It’s really boring because it’s not like the church is ruined. They have money. follow it.

“Raising money doesn’t necessarily mean going to the public. It could mean going to the Vatican.”


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