Archbishop Gerard Pettipas — the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops point man on the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement Register file photo.

Catholic groups miss TRC target by $21 million

  • January 6, 2016

A $21-million shortfall in Catholic fundraising has added another challenge to the task of reconciliation between Canadian churches and Native communities.

As the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission landed in Ottawa last month, accountants have been dealing with the failure of the “Moving Forward Together” campaign.

Catholic agencies, which ran more than 60 per cent of the federal government-mandated residential schools, were expected to raise $25 million as one part of the final settlement between aboriginal communities, churches and the government to cover the damage done by the schools to generations of young indigenous Canadians. But the “best-efforts” campaign raised just $3.7 million.

The four national churches which were party to the agreement have been sorting out final payments into the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. As a result of the Catholic fundraising campaign falling more than 80 per cent short of its goal, a reimbursement has been made to the Anglican Church of Canada in addition to some other adjustments.

As the largest operator of residential schools, the Catholics made the largest funding commitment to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation – $79 million.

The Catholic payments were divided into three parts:

  • $29 million in cash, an amount that was later brought down to account for payments already made in separate lawsuits;
  • $25 million in in-kind services spread over 10 years;
  • $25 million to be raised in a “best-efforts,” Canada-wide fundraising campaign.

Despite hiring top-flight fundraising consultants to run the Moving Forward Together fundraising campaign, the Catholic campaign never really got off the ground. While the consultants on the campaign had a track record of successfully raising money for hospitals and universities, the complex issues of residential schools and national reconciliation with Canada’s aboriginal people didn’t lend themselves to conventional fundraising.

“It’s not a reflection on that (consulting) company. It was the nature of that campaign,” Grouard-McLennan Archbishop Gerard Pettipas — the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops point man on the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement — told The Catholic Register.

“To be honest, at the time the fundraising campaign was perhaps causing more animosity than it was going to raise any funds. It was not the right time for a fundraising campaign,” said aboriginal issues consultant Gerry Kelly.

In the latter stages of the fundraising campaign the Catholic bishops tried to make up some of the shortfall with a nationwide pew collection that raised nearly $1 million.

With the campaign over and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation wrapped up, the Catholic fundraising shortfall meant a reduction in the proportion owed by the other three churches.

In November, a $2.8 million cheque was cut for the Anglicans. The Anglican Church of Canada has decided to apply that money to its ongoing Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation, which runs reconciliation projects in remote aboriginal communities across Canada.

Though the Catholic shortfall means that the Presbyterian Church of Canada’s $1.3 million cash payment is slightly higher than the proportion of residential schools it operated, the Presbyterians are not taking back any of their money.

“Ultimately, the agreement is for survivors,” said Presbyterian Church of Canada principal clerk to the General Assembly Stephen Kendall.

Of $6.9 million the United Church of Canada was committed to contributing, $2.2 million was in proportion to the Moving Forward Together campaign. At press time, there was no word whether the United Church had received any reimbursement or what the church might do with a reimbursement.

Money from all four churches to fund healing and reconciliation programs is now administered by the Legacy of Hope Foundation — successor to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The Catholic parties are due to make another $1.2 million contribution to Legacy of Hope this year.

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