Indian Residential Schools and TRC

Canada’s Bishops Provide Update on Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement

Canada’s Catholic Bishops are fully committed to working with Indigenous peoples and communities across the country to support healing and reconciliation, and to address the historic and ongoing suffering caused by the Catholic Church’s role in the Indian Residential School (“IRS”) system. As part of this work, the CCCB is making every effort to be open and transparent about the Church’s role, as well as the steps taken on the long journey towards reconciliation.

The CCCB has worked over the past several months to clarify important issues related to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (“IRSSA”) and the commitments made by Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential School Settlement (“CCEPIRSS”). Although the CCCB was not party to the IRSSA or CCEPIRSS, we take seriously the need to understand and recognize past failures with regards to the Catholic Church’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. This is particularly the case as Canada’s Bishops undertake renewed fundraising and reconciliation efforts.

Specifically, we have spoken to Catholic entities and Indigenous leaders who were signatories to the IRSSA to better understand the agreement and the dispute between Catholic entities and the Government of Canada. We reviewed available records and sought the assistance of McDougall Gauley LLP, a Saskatchewan-based law firm, with access to the evidence that was filed with the Court on the CCEPIRSS court applications. Given that CCEPIRSS is no longer operational, there were limitations in the information available to us.

Having said that, we felt it was important to share the information we have been able to access. Based on our review, it is our understanding that the Catholic entities fully met their obligations under the Agreement, however, Canada’s Bishops recognize the need for Catholic entities to do more to support the healing and reconciliation journey.

Specifically, the Agreement included three settlement obligations, all of which we have summarized below.

(1) Cash Payment Contributions – $29 million in cash payment contributions, less the aggregate amount paid by Catholic entities towards IRS claims compensation at the date of the Agreement, within a five-year period.

Specifically, Catholic entities paid a net amount of $20,655,425 in addition to $8,344,575 in previous payments to claimants. While the Agreement expressly anticipated and permitted administrative costs, the majority of these costs were paid by the Catholic entities    directly, with $399,999 being recovered from the principal amount.

(2) In-Kind Services$25 million in “in-kind services” over ten years.

This obligation was fully met and exceeded by the Catholic entities as of September, 2011. These services were overseen and approved by a multi-party panel with appointments from the Assembly of First Nations, Catholic entities, and the Government of Canada. At the time each of these projects was deemed “valuable” by a First Nation band council, Métis Settlement, Friendship Centre, or other similar Indigenous body prior to approval by the multi-party panel. While the value of these services stopped being calculated when the obligation was met, many of these projects continue to this day.

(3) Best-Efforts Campaign – Over a seven-year period, the “best efforts” campaign sought to raise $25 million through a Canada-wide campaign with the approach and means consistent with those used by professionally managed national fundraising campaigns.

To lead these efforts, a charitable organization was established with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Board directors and a national campaign was launched, supported by a well-known Canadian fundraising consultancy.

Despite sincere efforts, this campaign did not yield the results that were hoped for. Although achievement of the $25 million target was not a condition of the IRSSA, the resulting $2.6 million of disbursements was inadequate in meeting the historic and ongoing need for projects in support of IRS survivors and their families.

The CCCB has drawn lessons from this effort to ensure the recent $30 million national pledge made by Canadian Bishops in September 2021 is achieved in full and delivered in a way that meaningfully respects the needs of Indigenous communities across the country.

On October 30, 2015, the Government of Canada released CCEPIRSS and the Catholic Entities from the IRSSA based on a determination that all obligations had been met. Canada’s Bishops remain available to work with interested parties to enhance transparency on this important subject.

Reconciliation is a long and ongoing journey that inspires the work of Canada’s Bishops every day. While it is our understanding that the Catholic entities party to the IRSSA honoured all of their legal settlement obligations, we share the disappointment that CCEPIRSS did not live up to responsibility to more meaningfully address the Catholic Church’s role in the Government of Canada’s IRS system.

In September, 2021, Canada’s Catholic Bishops, representing 73 local dioceses and eparchies across the country, issued an unequivocal apology to Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and re-committed to the process of healing and reconciliation through:

  • A $30 million National Fundraising Pledge;
  • Providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves;
  • Direct engagement with Pope Francis in the reconciliation process;
  • Educating clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality.

It is the CCCB’s hope that understanding CCEPIRSS’ history can help inform our approach as we move forward with continued efforts around healing and reconciliation.

Related Documents

  • Statement from the Executive Committee on CCEPIRSS(Aug 2021)
  • Summary of Court Proceedings – Performance by the Catholic Entities of their Obligations Under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (“IRSSA”) (January, 2022)
  • Documents appended to the above-mentioned summary include:
  • 15 April 2014 CCEPIRSS Letter
  • 17 October 2011 CCEPIRSS Letter
  • 17 September 2012 CCEPIRSS Letter
  • 29 March 2012 AANDC Letter
  • 25 January 2012 AANDC Letter
  • 2015-07-16 Decision of Gabrielson, J.
  • Government of Canada General Release (R1655866)