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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 22:45 GMT
Canada strikes deal on church abuse
Children - picture posed by models
Many native children faced abuse in Canadian schools

The Canadian Government has agreed a deal with the Anglican Church of Canada, to share the costs of thousands of law suits brought by native Canadians who were abused in residential schools during the 20th Century.

The government will pay 70% of the costs, leaving the Anglican Church to find up to $16m.

The government owns the schools but they were run by four Christian churches.

It is the first such deal between the government and the church.

But it doesn't satisfy many of the native Canadians making claims.

Dark times

The affair is a dark period in the country's history that continues to be felt today.

From the 1930s until the mid-1990s, tens of thousands of native Canadians children were sent to residential schools in Canada.

They were supposed to learn the ways of the European settlers.

Pope John Paul II during his visit to Canada
The Catholic church faces more than two thirds of the claims
But many suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their teachers.

Most native communities are blighted by social problems, that many people there now argue result from the suffering caused by the schools.

Around 12,000 people have filed law suits, but only 500 have been settled, as arguments continue over who should pay the compensation.

Moving on

Last year, the government announced it would meet 70% of the costs, but at the time the churches said that wasn't enough.

The Anglicans are the first to agree.

Meeting the claims on their own would have bankrupted them.

The government minister who arranged the deal, Ralph Goodale, says it means money can be focussed on helping those who suffered.

"Any progress in putting aside that argument about percentages as between the government and the churches will certainly be of benefit to aboriginal claimants and victims," he says.

Catholic cases unresolved

But it will still be a long time before all the cases are settled.

The Anglican church has only around 20% of all the claims.

The Catholic church faces more than two thirds of them, and it has no agreement with the government.

Nor have many native people in Canada.

In order to get access to the compensation, they must agree to drop all legal action.

And many are now fighting for compensation for being deprived of their language and culture.

The government says it will continue to fight those cases in court.

See also:

31 Jul 02 | Americas
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08 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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