Sask. Catholic bishops move forward alone with fundraising campaign for residential school survivors



DISCLAIMER: This story contains distressing details

The bishops of Saskatchewan release more details of a fundraising campaign for residential school survivors, but none of their colleagues across Canada appear to be joining them.

A website is now accepting donations for the campaign. In a statement, the bishops of Saskatchewan say they are working with survivors, elders, Indigenous leaders and others, and will announce target amounts, timelines and all other details by September.

“It is up to all of us to seize the opportunity to be instruments of healing and reconciliation, moving forward in humility, truth and justice,” said the bishops in the joint letter.

The Saskatchewan Bishops’ Declaration recognized the unmarked grave findings in Cowessess First Nation and elsewhere, and the need to do more.

“We offer our condolences but we know that this is not enough and that our words must turn into concrete actions,” the statement said.

A $ 17 million fundraising campaign has been underway for two years to renovate this Regina cathedral and build an adjacent ministry center. Critics say it is immoral to fundraise for buildings when the Catholic Church‘s financial commitment to residential school survivors is still not being met. (Richard Agecoutay / CBC)

The press release says that the fundraising priorities of Indigenous leaders are “healing and reconciliation, cemeteries at former residential school sites, and education and cultural support.”

Do you have information on residential schools? Email your tips to WhereAre [email protected]

CBC News asked more than a dozen other dioceses in other provinces if they would also relaunch the $ 25 million ‘best’ fundraising effort that was scrapped several years ago after it was launched. raised only 3.9 million dollars. The $ 25 million was part of the important Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. All the other churches involved – Anglican, Presbyterian, United – paid their full amount several years ago.

For example, a Catholic official in Toronto said they had not made a decision while officials in Winnipeg did not respond to a recent request from CBC News. No one from the Diocese of Calgary was available Wednesday afternoon.

CBC News asked the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops if others are joining the Saskatchewan effort. They said that making inquiries on behalf of outside organizations was not part of their mandate.

The letter from Saskatchewan is signed by Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina, Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, l Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and Bishop Stephen Hero of the Diocese of Prince Albert.

Residential school survivor Rick Daniels and his wife Judy Greyeyes say if the Catholic Church decides to honor its full $ 25 million fundraising pledge for survivors, the money should help generations futures to heal. (Jason Warick / CBC)

Prior to 2005, churches and the federal government faced billions, if not tens of billions of lawsuits from survivors and their families for emotional, physical and sexual abuse, malnutrition, cultural shame, and systemic violations. basic human rights suffered in residential schools. But that year, all parties agreed to settle the issues under the massive Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The Catholic Church, which operated more schools than all the other churches combined, agreed to pay an initial $ 29 million plus an additional $ 25 million in “in-kind services.” Most or all of this has been paid, according to various sources. But the Catholic Church also agreed to do its best to raise an additional $ 25 million, and was over $ 21 million short.

A museum employee walks into the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican Museums on the occasion of the museum’s reopening, in Rome, Monday, May 3, 2021. Critics say that if Canadian Catholic groups will not pay the full amount $ 25 million fundraising pledge to survivors, the Vatican expected. They point to billions of Vatican assets and church land holdings exceeding the total area of ​​the province of Saskatchewan. (Alessandro Tarantino / The Associated Press)

In court, Catholic lawyers pointed to the “best efforts” clause, saying they were doing their best. A judge agreed and absolved them of any further fundraising responsibilities.

Critics say the Catholic Church’s actions may have been legal, but not moral. Elders, survivors, First Nations leaders and a Catholic priest congratulated the bishops of Saskatchewan, but call on all Canadian bishops to relaunch fundraising efforts. They say the Vatican, with its billions in assets, should pay if the bishops refuse.

Critics also point out that the church has claimed it has run out of money for survivors while devoting hundreds of millions to cathedrals and churches. They want all current cathedral fundraisers to be put on hold until the survivor fundraising is over. This includes the $ 17 million renovation fund for the Regina Cathedral. The statement from the bishops of Saskatchewan does not say if this will happen.

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

A national residential school crisis line has been established 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.

Do you have any information on the anonymous graves, the children who never made it home, or the residential school staff and operations? Email your advice to CBC’s new Indigenous-led residential school investigating team: WhereAre [email protected]



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