Catholic officials said in 2015 they could only raise a total of $ 3.9 million for residential school survivors, but efforts for Catholic cathedrals and other buildings across Canada reached nearly $ 300 million since November 2005, according to data collected by CBC News. The actual number may be higher. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops this week declined a request by CBC News to seek the information from its member bishops. The figure of $ 292 million comes from research of each diocese’s websites and other public sources.
These include a $ 128 million renovation of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto. The 2016 gala opening – with a fanfare – came a year after Canadian church groups went to court to say there was no more money to raise funds for survivors.
Critics say these numbers challenge the church’s legal claim that it has done “its best” to help survivors.
‘Keep your promise’
“They broke their promise. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, we’ve tried. It’s a shame, ”said Star Blanket Cree Nation Chief Michael Starr.
“There is a lot of hate, a lot of anger out there. The church has to work with us. It must be tangible. Keep your promise. “
Following the discovery of over 1,000 anonymous graves in Kamloops, British Columbia, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada, Starr, survivors and others wanted the church to revive its efforts.
Starr applauded the bishops of Saskatchewan for recently agreeing to do just that. But he said the survivors had yet to see anything concrete. Starr also called on all of Canada’s bishops to join the effort.
“You know, survivors being placed at the end of this priority list, you know, I don’t think that’s fair. They should take priority number one and make sure we are funded according to their promise, ”Starr said.
Diocese of Toronto “Open” Again to Fundraising
An Archdiocese of Toronto official said Monday they were “open” to further fundraising for survivors, but no decision has been made.
In a written statement, the diocese said “to be clear is not to say no. This means that we must carefully discern the best way to approach such an effort ”.
Starr, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations leader Bobby Cameron, and others say they’ve had 15 years to do what’s right – since the 2005 residential school settlement – so they don’t know why authorities are just starting to think about it again now.
They said all current Catholic fundraisers for buildings must be suspended while money is raised for survivors. This includes the Diocese of Regina’s $ 17 million campaign to renovate its Cathedral of the Holy Rosary.
Officials from the Saskatoon and Regina Dioceses declined to give a timeframe or target amount for survivor fundraising efforts in the province, but a Regina Diocese official said more details will be available soon, including understood the fate of other ongoing fundraising campaigns.
In the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement of 2005, one of the Catholic Church’s promises was to “do my best” to raise $ 25 million for survivors. After a decade, more than $ 21 million remained unpaid.
The church went to court and underlined the “best efforts” clause, saying it had done its best. On July 16, 2015, the judge agreed and absolved the church of its legal obligation.
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.