The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) executive team is calling on the Roman Catholic Church to fulfill an agreement made to residential school survivors to provide compensation for them.
The agreement to provide compensation is part of the Indian Residential School Survivor (IRSS) Agreement.
The IRSS was approved in 2006 and had a number of parties commit to several items, such as finances to help survivors access services and programs. The national agreement pledged millions in support, including a nationwide fund-raising campaign to raise $25 million.
The Catholic Church diocese in Saskatoon had only raised $34,650 in the fund-raising campaign. Across the entire country, about $4 million has been raised.
“For Catholics to raise millions to build multiple multi-million-dollar cathedrals and raise only $34,650 or $0.30 per survivor is shameful,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a news release, adding “Just as shameful as the acts committed against these little children by the priests, nuns and institution they worship.”
Cameron said survivors deserve an apology and compensation, “not broken promises” for what was done to them in residential schools run by the Catholic Church.
“Thousands of First Nations children were victims of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at these church-run residential schools. They were starved, shamed and beaten for speaking their languages and stripped of their culture, traditions, and identity,” Cameron said.
The 2006 agreement outlined numerous commitments, including:
- $29 million for programs and services, with the Saskatoon diocese’s share being $25,000
- Catholic entities providing “services-in-kind” commitments for community services and programs worth more than $25 million to Indigenous communities, with the Saskatoon diocese contribution valued at $43,000
- a final fundraising appeal, called “Moving Forward Together,” that involved all dioceses in Canada with a goal to raise $25 million, and for which the Saskatoon diocese contributed about $34,650
Cameron said if Catholic churches in Canada can’t raise the money, then it should come from the Vatican.
In a separate news release sent Tuesday, Bishop Mark Hagemoen explained the Saskatoon diocese’s fundraising under the IRSSA.
Hagemoen said though the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was not required to join the 2006 IRSS agreement, it voluntarily did so to support the process and purpose.
The diocese was not required to join, Hagemoen said, as there was no residential school located in the diocese or operated by it.
Hagemoen said he understands that the diocese leaders made efforts to complete each commitment, but “were disappointed by the results.”
“If I was to summarize why the efforts yielded this kind of result, I would say that many of our parishioners, like many non-Indigenous Canadians, have been slow to understand the impact and legacy of the residential school system, and this seems to be reflected in the (fundraising) response at the time,” Hagemoen said in a press release.
The discoveries of grave sites near former residential schools has drawn “an even greater awareness” of the need to support the healing of survivors and their families, Hagemoen said.
“I think Catholic members in our diocese and across Canada would respond with a heightened sense of solidarity and support.”
Hagemoen told Global News there is interest as of recently to fundraise.
“I can say that very recently I am hearing from a lot of Catholics in Saskatoon that would like to fundraise again.”
In the press release, Hagemoen added there are other ways to support reconciliation and healing, including the Truth and Reconciliations’ Calls to Action.
There is still much left to address in the TRC’s report, including the call for Pope Francis to come to Canada to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, Hagemoen said.
Hagemoen reiterated that he supports such a visit and apology from Pope Francis and believes it would bring healing to many and help “further the journey of reconciliation in our Church and our country.”