Taking on the Catholic Church – Part I DRAFT

cbc – Oblates and Gray Nuns witholding photos and docs – https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/catholic-orders-residential-school-records-1.4686472

LAC releases 98 year old health record to Sadowski – https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/archives-releases-document-health-first-nations-1.4540024

 

Oblates taxing schools to fill coffers – https://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2018/03_04/2018_04_25_Barrera_PoliceFiles.htm

 

A Renewal

Grim discoveries of many hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops and Marieval Indian Residential Schools have renewed calls for the Government of Canada and Christian Churches to be accountable for their parts in a campaign of genocide waged against First Nations.

So far, the Catholic Church has been especially adept at escaping legal and political responsibility for its leading role in these crimes against humanity. Taking on the Catholic Church now will make dealing with the other perpetrators look like child’s play.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (May 2006) is a logical place to start an enquiry into the details of the Catholic Church’s operation of Indian Residential Schools. The IRSSA represents the consensus reached between legal counsel for former students, legal counsel for the Churches, the Assembly of First Nations and other Indigenous organizations, and the Government of Canada. Three IRSSA Schedules deal with the Catholic Church specifically:

Legal claims may yet be brought against the Catholic Church for its repeated violation of the IRSSA, and other legal claims and political actions may be initiated against the Catholic Church beyond the narrow confines of the IRSSA.

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

Thomas McMahon was the Executive Director and then Chief Counsel of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC). While he had no involvement in any events that lead to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), McMahon would later meet many of the key players, attend important conferences where key players discussed those events, and review important documents relating to those events. These opportunities allowed McMahon to publish a remarkable series on the IRSSA.

In one essay, ‘And Then the Pope Died’ – The Timeline for How Canada Reached a Settlement Agreement on Indian Residential Schools (July 2017), McMahon highlights how the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Doe v. Bennett, 2004 SCC 17 so far has effectively immunized the Catholic Church in Canada from legal accountability:

“The Court refused to deal with the issue of the liability of the Roman Catholic Church because ‘[t]he record does not provide the clear picture of the details of the Church’s hierarchy or of the relationship between the Church and its constituent parts’. (para. 35) … The events relating to Doe v. Bennett are part of an extraordinary series of court decisions, described in detail elsewhere. This was one of series of court cases that made it clear that Canadian courts were not going to impose liability on the Roman Catholic Church as a whole [my emphasis]. …

“Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, appointed as Canada’s representative in the negotiation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, said: ‘One of the challenges within the church group was that the Catholic church does not have a national organization. There is a United Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, but there is not a Catholic Church of Canada [my emphasis]. There are individual dioceses and parishes that have entity statuses. … That added to the complexity.’ The Truth and Reconciliation Commission would find out just how much it added to the complexity when it tried and mostly failed to obtain all records relevant to Indian residential schools, which was the legal obligation on each one of those Catholic entities.” [p 59]

To this day, the Catholic Church hews closely to the defense that it staked out during the IRSSA negotiations. For example, here’s the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)’s carefully-crafted opening statement about Indian Residential Schools and the TRC (accessed June 27, 2021):

“The Catholic community in Canada has a decentralized structure.  Each Diocesan Bishop is autonomous in his diocese and, although relating to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not accountable to it.

“Approximately 16 out of 70 Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former Indian Residential Schools, in addition to about three dozen Catholic religious communities.  Each diocese and religious community is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions. The Catholic Church as a whole in Canada was not associated with the Residential Schools, nor was the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

The CCCB goes on to offer two formulaic apologies: “Various types of abuse experienced at some residential schools have moved us to a profound examination of conscience as a Church” (1993) and “We are sorry and deeply regret the pain, suffering and alienation that so many experienced” (1991).

Corporate Catholic Defendants

Schedule O-3 identifies fourty-eight Corporate Catholic Defendants, who are parties to the IRSSA:

Table 1. Corporate Catholic Defendants in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (2006)
ID CATHOLIC DEFENDANT HEADQUARTERS
1 Sisters of Charity Halifax NS
2 The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Halifax Halifax NS
3 Les Soeurs De Notre Dame-Auxiliatrice Rouyn-Norand QC
4 Les Soeurs de St. Francois D’Assise Montréal QC
5 Insitut Des Soeurs Du Bon Conseil Normandin QC
6 Les Soeurs de Saint-Joseph de Saint-Hyacinthe St. Hyacinthe Quebec
7 Les Soeurs De Jesus-Marie Montréal QC
8 Les Sœurs de L’Assomption de la Sainte Verge Nicolet QC
9 Les Soeurs de l’Assomption de la Saint Vierge de l’Alberta Edmonton AB
10 Les Soeurs de la Charité de St.-Hyacinthe Saint-Hyacinthe QC
11 Les Oeuvres Oblates de l’Ontario Ottawa ON
12 Les Résidence Oblates du Québec Ottawa ON
13 La Corporation Episcopale Catholique Romaine de la Baie James Moosonee ON
14 Soeurs Grises de Montréal Montreal QC
15 Sisters of Charity of Alberta Edmonton AB
16 Les Soeurs de La Charité des T.N.O. Edmonton AB
17 Hôtel-Dieu de Nicolet (HDN) Nicolet, QC
18 The Grey Nuns of Manitoba Inc. Edmonton AB
19 La Corporation Episcopale Catholique Romaine de la Baie d’ Hudson Churchill MB
20 Missionary Oblates – Grandin St. Albert AB
21 Les Oblats de Marie Immaculée du Manitoba St. Boniface MB
22 The Archiepiscopal Corporation of Regina Regina SK
23 The Sisters of the Presentation Prince Albert SK
24 The Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault St. Marie North Bay ON
25 Les Soeurs de la Charité d’Ottawa Ottawa ON
26 Oblates of Mary Immaculate – St. Peter’s Province Ottawa ON
27 The Sisters of Saint Ann Victoria BC
28 Sisters of Instruction of the Child Jesus Coquitlam BC
29 The Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel Oregon Mt. Angel OR, USA
30 Les Peres Montfortains Montreal QC
31 The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kamloops – Corporation Sole Kamloops BC
32 The Bishop of Victoria, Corporation Sole Victoria BC
33 The Roman Catholic Bishop of Nelson, Corporation Sole Nelson BC
34 Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Province of British Columbia Vancouver BC
35 The Sisters of Charity of Providence of Western Canada Edmonton AB
36 La Corporation Episcopale Catholique Romaine de Grouard McLennan AB
37 Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Keewatin The Pas MB
38 La Corporation Archiépiscopale Catholique Romaine de St. Boniface Winnipeg MB
39 Les Missionnaires Oblates de St. Boniface Winnipeg MB
40 Roman Catholic Archiepiscopal Corporation of Winnipeg Winnipeg MB
41 La Corporation Episcopale Catholique Romaine De Prince Albert Prince Albert SK
42 The Roman Catholic Bishop of Thunder Bay Thunder Bay ON
43 Immaculate Heart Community of Los Angeles CA Los Angeles, CA
44 Archdiocese of Vancouver Vancouver BC
45 Roman Catholic Diocese of Whitehorse Whitehorse Yukon
46 The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Mackenzie-Fort Smith Yellowknife NT
47 The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Prince Rupert Prince George BC
48 OMI Lacombe Canada Inc. Ottawa, ON

Schedule O-3 lists three Other Catholic Entities, who are not parties to the IRSSA, but agreed with the Government to provide, inter alia, payment of Compensation:

  • Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada
  • Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario
  • Daughters of Mary

Oblates of Mary Immaculate

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (Oblates) represent seven of the fourty-eight (about 15%) Corporate Catholic Defendants, who are parties to the IRSSA [italicized entries in Table 1]. The Oblates operated fourty-eight of the sixty-two (about 77%) Catholic-run institutions in Canada, including the Kamloops and Marieval Indian Residential Schools.

Thirty years, the President of the Oblate Conference of Canada issued a four-page apology to First Nations on behalf of 1,200 Oblates living and ministering in Canada. The apology is remarkable in at least two respects:

First, the 1991 apology belies any pretense that the evil of Indian Residential Schools was unknown before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published its findings in 2015.

Second, the Oblates have spent thirty years violating their pledge “to support an effective process of disclosure vis-a-vis Residential Schools. We offer to collaborate in any way we can so that the full story of the Indian Residential Schools may be written, [my emphasis] that their positive and negative features may be recognized, and that an effective healing process might take place.” [p. 4]

In the wake of public outcry over the grim discovery of many hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Indian Residential Schools in Kamloops and Marieval, the Oblates issued another Commitment to Documentation Transparency Regarding Residential Schools on June 21, 2021:

“Consistent with the Oblate Apology, given in 1991, [we] have worked to make our historical documents available through partnerships with universities, archives and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  While some progress has been made, this disclosure is not complete, and has been complicated by issues of provincial and national privacy laws.

“We are not experts in the management and analysis of these historical documents or the complex privacy laws which apply.  However, we must address these issues, as without a full review of the existing historical documentation from our order’s involvement, the truth of residential schools will not be fully known.  Recognising that we are not the appropriate organisations to determine which documents can be released within the law, we are seeking guidance and instruction from expert organisations. And we further acknowledge that delays can cause ongoing distrust, distress, and trauma to Indigenous peoples across British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the rest of the country.

“For this reason, we declare that our commitment to transparency involves the following:

    • We will disclose and not block access to the historical documents maintained by us and in our possession, as is possible within the law, to establish the truth of what happened in residential schools;
    • We will seek guidance from and work with First Nations and federal and provincial governments on these matters;
    • We will work with bishops and other leaders in the Catholic church to support full truth in these matters.”

Clearly, the Oblates have set themselves two tasks in the current crisis:

  1. To quell growing calls from Indigenous and non-Indigenous People that the Oblates be held legally responsible for their leading role in the campaign of genocide waged against First Nations.
  2. To undertake to do the right thing, finally, while avoiding any admission that the Oblates failed to comply with their legal obligations to disclose documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada under the terms and conditions of the IRSSA.

The Oblates’ long history of temporizing, obfuscating, excuse-making, and promise-breaking gives us every reason to doubt their good intentions this time around. We cannot take the Oblates at their word. We need public campaigns to shame them — and legal actions to compel them — into disclosing records of their complicity in the operation of Indian Residential Schools.

The Oblates’ Leadership

The Oblates’ corporate website details the organization’s General Administration and Central Government. For a public campaign to shame the Oblates into keeping their promises and meeting their obligations under the IRSSA, we recommend focusing on the Oblates’ six most senior officers (Superior General, Vicar General, 1st Assistant General, 2nd Assistant General, Secretary General, and Treasurer General), plus their General Councillor for Canada-US, and the two signatories to their June 21, 2021 Commitment to Documentation Transparency Regarding Residential Schools:

Table 2. Key Leadership of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (2021)
Fr. Louis Lougen,
Superior General,
lougen@omigen.org
Fr. Paolo Archiati,
Vicar General,
archiati@gmail.com
Fr. Cornelius NGOKA,
1st Assistant General,
cngoka@gmail.com
Fr. Ramon Maria Bernabe,
2nd Assistant General,
AssistGenMission@omigen.org
Fr. Marek Jazgier,
Secretary General,
jazgier@omigen.org
Fr. Marc Dessureault,
Treasurer General,
dessureault.omi@gmail.com
Fr. Warren BROWN,
General Councillor for Canada-US,
brown@omigen.org
Fr. Ken Thorson,
Provincial – OMI Lacombe Canada,
information@omilacombe.ca
Père Luc Tardif,
Provincial – Notre‐Dame‐du‐Cap,
provincial@omiquebec.com

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Resources

Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada – Indian Residential Schools and TRC

“The Catholic community in Canada has a decentralized structure.  Each Diocesan Bishop is autonomous in his diocese and, although relating to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not accountable to it.

“Approximately 16 out of 70 Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former Indian Residential Schools, in addition to about three dozen Catholic religious communities.  Each diocese and religious community is corporately and legally responsible for its own actions. The Catholic Church as a whole in Canada was not associated with the Residential Schools, nor was the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“In a brief submitted to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in November 1993, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said that ‘various types of abuse experienced at some residential schools have moved us to a profound examination of conscience as a Church.’

“Already in 1991, Canadian Catholic Bishops and leaders of men and women religious communities had issued a statement that ‘We are sorry and deeply regret the pain, suffering and alienation that so many experienced’ at the Residential Schools.”

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

General Administration of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

The Central Government – Present
Fr. Louis Lougen, Superior General Fr. Warren Brown, General Councillor for Canada-US Fr. Marc Dessureault, Treasurer General
Superior Generals – Past and Present
Links to Oblates in Canada

Link to pictures of two signatories to OMI’s June 21, 2021 commitment – https://www.omiusa.org/index.php/2019/07/02/inter-chapter-2019/

 


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