Ministerial Question Period: Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Welcome, Minister Miller. On August 20, The Canadian Press reported that it had obtained a copy of a 2015 agreement that confirms that Canada not only paid their legal bill but agreed to “forever discharge” Catholic entities from their obligation to raise $25 million for survivors under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Could you tell us by whom, why and how this decision was made, and what steps, if any, your government is taking to correct it?

Hon. Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations: Thank you, senator. This is something that our team has been seized of ever since I was named the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Indeed, it goes back to 2015 and a decision by the prior government to keep itself to the terms and not to continue the court case against the Catholic entities involved in the agreement related to residential schools.

There are elements of that agreement that talk about the disclosure of documents, the necessary cooperation that has to happen between Canada and the Catholic entities that people could look at in retrospect and say that this is something that is desirable. At the end of the day, you’re looking at a deal to indemnify one of the co-conspirators of the Indian residential school system, namely the Catholic Church and the Catholic entities that perpetrated unspeakable evils on Indigenous communities and broke their spirits, which is a key element of “removing the Indian from the child.” Canada had its role to play, but when you look at the deal among the parties from the distance that I have several years later, it looks like a bum deal, particularly with the billions of dollars that are necessary to put people back in position, to the extent financial resources can do so, for the unspeakable harms that people are still suffering for and transmitting from generation to generation.

This is equally an indictment of the Catholic Church as it is of the Government of Canada. This is work that we need those churches involved with, particularly to provide information to get to people so they can get an element of solace, some closure and perhaps some accountability. Pointing fingers is one thing, but a lot of them point inward. We have some work to put forward and to produce results.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

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