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The Catholic Church in Canada is worth billions, a Globe investigation shows. Why are its reparations for residential schools so small?

The Catholic Church in Canada is worth billions, a Globe investigation shows. Why are its reparations for residential schools so small?

2021-08-07 3:23:00 PM

The Catholic Church in Canada is worth billions, a Globe investigation shows. Why are its reparations for residential schools so small?

Altogether, Catholic institutions had net assets of $4.1-billion in 2019, and that’s a conservative figure. Meanwhile, residential-school survivors say it’s time for the church to take broader responsibility for its role in past abuses

Photos: Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail‘A groundswell within the church’As a Catholic, Lorraine Whitman has been to the Vatican several times to attend midnight mass and reaffirm her faith. Ms. Whitman, a member of Glooscap First Nation in Nova Scotia and president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, has seen the splendour of the cathedrals, and has wondered why that wealth has not been shared to help those who suffered harms from the church.

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“I just feel so sickened to know all of the psychological, physical, emotional abuse and traumatization that our Indigenous children have gone through,” she said. “I have seen those beautiful paintings, I have seen all of their collections, all of their treasures that they have. One painting, if that were sold, do you know how far those dollars would go in the healing of our communities?”

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, is a Catholic and wonders why more of the Vatican's wealth hasn't been used for residential-school compensation.HandoutIt’s difficult to pinpoint the global wealth of the Catholic Church. At the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and works by Michelangelo, St. Peter’s Basilica and the art in its museums are considered priceless. Last month,

the Vatican revealed for the first timethat it owns more than 5,000 properties.In Canada, frustration is growing in the Catholic community over the response from church leaders on residential schools. Petitions and open letters continue to gain signatures – one calling for churches to compensate communities that lost children at the residential schools has more than 40,000 signatures; another by Catholics calling for the church to offer to pay for reinterment of the children’s bodies has 6,500. Some are calling for a boycott of donations, or that the church’s tax-exempt status be revoked.

“There’s a groundswell within the church, to the leaders, who seem a bit more reluctant than many of the members … to say we must meet our commitments, and I’m hoping that there will be some action on that,” said Mayo Moran, a law professor who is provost and vice-chancellor of Trinity College at the University of Toronto.

Mayo Moran is a law professor at the University of Toronto.HandoutThe Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), she says, “really need to show more leadership on this. Invite the Pope to come, get that money together, address the records – those are the things that need to be done.” Instead, she characterizes the response so far from the conference as “reluctant.” The CCCB’s main roles are to assist bishops in joint action and co-ordinate charitable initiatives

.In a June interview, The Globe asked the CCCB’s Archbishop Gagnon about the potential for a national fundraising campaign and whether the church would pledge money. At the time, he said local efforts were more appropriate; he said he couldn’t respond to a question on whether the church would contribute funds through assets or cash holdings.

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“A lot of Catholics think that’s inadequate,” said Prof. Moran, who is the former chair of the committee that oversaw the compensation process for survivors under the residential schools settlement agreement. “They want their church to step up and do more. It really doesn’t reflect well on the church, unfortunately … I suspect that people believe that they are protecting the church from liability. But my sense is that it’s really undermining the church’s moral legitimacy.

“This is a failure of leadership,” she said.Story continues below advertisementRichard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg, is president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.HandoutWhen asked about overall finances across Canada, Archbishop Gagnon said in the e-mail that CCCB “does not keep a collection of financial statements” for Canadian Catholic charities. He said bishops from many dioceses have indicated interest in local or regional fundraising campaigns, and that it is “encouraged” by the start of fundraising drives in Toronto, Calgary and Saskatchewan.

The CCCB has distanced itself from the residential school issue. Its website notes that 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.”

Bishop Dowd of Sault St. Marie said he would prefer a national fundraising campaign, as it would be an opportunity to build awareness among parishioners, especially new Canadians, and solidarity, and that this should be an ongoing initiative, not a one-off.

He said a “duck and cover” approach amid growing public outrage is not the best response. “I’m not in favour of press releases that sound like they were written in a corporate laboratory,” he said. “I think we need to express our own broken hearts.”Other countries are grappling with past atrocities, and churches’ role in them. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse uncovered decades of horrific abuses by Roman Catholic priests. In 2018, an

investigation by The Sydney Morning Heraldfound the church had grossly underestimated its property values in evidence to the commission, which the Herald said raised questions about whether the church was trying to protect assets and minimize compensation to victims. It identified church-owned properties in the state of Victoria alone at about 7 billion Australian dollars ($6.5-billion).

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In the United States, a national discussion is under way over reparation proposals for African Americans. In March, the Jesuits – a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church – pledged to raise US$100-million toward reconciliation efforts, to make amends for its role in the enslavement of Black people. In April, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to create a commission that will study reparations to the descendants of slaves.

In Canada, several bishops have issued apologies for residential schools, and some religious orders have offered to share historical documents. The United Church of Canada has a policy that a minimum 10 per cent of the proceeds of all property sales go toward reconciliation initiatives, including a healing fund. It has also set aside money each year for reconciliation programs, and said last month it approved $3-million to help finance investigations of unmarked graves at residential schools.

Cora Voyageur, shown at her home west of Calgary, is a survivor of the Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Alberta, which was run by Catholic orders.Todd Korol/The Globe and MailMoving forwardCora Voyageur still remembers the number that the nuns assigned to her as a nine-year-old at the Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.: 21. Her sister was No. 19; her youngest sister was No. 45.

She remembers being called “savage,” and the constant fear of beatings. “There was this underlying feeling of unease and anxiety and the idea that you could get whacked at any time,” she said. “You did not feel safe.”More than five decades later, the residential school survivor, who is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and a sociology professor at the University of Calgary, wonders why substantive responses from Catholic Church leaders are still so tepid, especially given that Catholic entities ran most of the schools. Funding from the church toward, for example, better access to post-secondary education, could have a transformative impact on young Indigenous people, she said.

Funding could also go toward identifying the children in the unmarked graves, and determining how they died. Some entities have recently promised to share documents – after years of requests – but there are still costs associated with collecting and digitizing them, said Raymond Frogner, head of archives at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Several entities – such as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious order that ran many of the schools – have said they don’t have the funds to do this, and thus far the church has not offered to cover costs. “The Catholic Church itself could surely find some funds to do this of all things, right? If you really want to be accountable, now’s your chance to actually pay for the costs of making these records available,” Mr. Frogner said, adding that about $100,000 would be needed.

Story continues below advertisementSeveral of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action ask churches to step up. No. 61 says they should work with survivors and Indigenous groups to establish permanent funding for initiatives such as projects for healing, language revitalization and education, and for Indigenous youth to explore their spirituality and self-determination.

Funding for healing programs could also revive a once-powerful Indigenous organization. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which existed from 1998 to 2014, was a national Indigenous-led organization dedicated to community-building and healing. The foundation disbursed about $610-million to more than 1,500 programs. It was shut down late in 2014, when the Harper government let its funding lapse.

The foundation was to receive most of the $29-million cash transfer that was among the Catholic Church’s commitments under the residential schools settlement. But the money was hard won, according to Mike DeGagné, president of the national Indigenous charity Indspire and former executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. When the time came for the Catholic Church to give the foundation the funding, “the phone went absolutely silent,” he said. The foundation had to plead with the church to release its money.

To Mr. DeGagné, organizations such as the foundation are sorely needed today. “On the day that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation closed and all those projects were forced to close down, there were almost 1,000 employees within those programs in communities,” Mr. DeGagné said. “That’s 1,000 employees that were accountants, HR people, directors, counsellors, elders and people who were doing something or being trained.

“What I’d like to see is institution building,” he said. “Indigenous organizations that can make real change.”Cora Voyageur, the residential school survivor in Alberta, wants to see fulfilling change, and a bold,new direction. “Let’s build a new relationship,” she said. “One based on respect, and equality.”

With a report from David Milstead in Toronto Read more: The Globe and Mail »


Many of these comments are straw man arguments. The Catholic Church has a legal/moral debt to pay & is in default. Assets should be seized in lieu of payment. It’s nothing to do with whether the church should continue to exist (although the church is eroding its goodwill in Cda) attn IwriteOK This story is still unfolding.

This is either unintentionally inaccurate or intentional 💩 Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and other Christian denominations: they are targeting Catholicism now, because that's the largest denomination of the majority religious group...but they're coming for you next. The Catholic Church in Canada is worth only $320 per parishioner. 80% of that “wealth” is tied up in buildings: churches, schools and the like The only way to liquidate that wealth would be to ban Catholicism itself in Canada Journalists are prepping the way to ban Catholicism

Globe and mail, a masonic dishrag not even worth our tweets. Our best revenge is the massive conversion of protestants to Catholicism, that is why the masons are trying to strike back in order to slow down the growth of the Church. Keep raging. I read this book when it came out in the '80s. The author's premise that John Paul I was murdered was completely secondary to the revelations of the Vatican bank scandal and enormous wealth held. Most Catholics had no knowledge of this prior to publication.

Religions are all equally worthless. These are at best clubs and should not have any tax exempt status. Use eminent domain laws to take churches and convert to housing for homeless. Because the catholics like all other religions this they are above the law. They follow the law of there god, and since the pop is their representative of their god. he decided what laws to follow, and what laws to break, because they are against their gods choice.

Because they are scammers. CarbonConvoCA

How much Canadian wealth does the Catholic Church have? Inside The Globe investigationCatholic institutions are so decentralized in Canada that it’s hard to get a total picture of their wealth – not without considerable effort to sort through volumes of tax data. Here’s how The Globe did it Like Scotiabank says: 'We're richer than you think!' I’d like to see the globe investigate Islamic charities and mosques’ alleged funneling of funds for terrorism. But I know I won’t.

Every one who has been abused by the Catholic Church should get reparations. Everyone. The Catholic Church is also one of the biggest charity organisations in the world. Why should it have to pay reparations? The residential schools were a government project. It’s time to end tax breaks for religious groups.

Weren’t residential schools a Canadian Federal Government program?… Anyway, once all churches are burned down by the wokest population on earth, there won’t be much left to sell. I see all the bigots found this thread. I think the g&m should investigate the rcmp and the government as well. Unless this was already uncovered in the million dollar truth and reconciliation report. Must be a slow news day

A beautiful church building’s purpose is to lift the hearts and minds of the faithful to God. That is money well spent and something will never understand. Where's the government Responsible for all this Where's Daddy Trudeau involvment Tax churches, use the money for reparations.

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What if that was the plan all along? Develop an institution to collect money, gold, buildings, and souls. Become super wealthy. Do whatever you want with kids. Seems like the plan worked. What are you drinking. Where did you get that information. It’s far from the truth. Sickening! The catholic church is dead to me. Give the victims and survivors the land now! They are done waiting...

Can we talk about how Trudeau is throwing the Catholic Church under the bus to protect his father's legacy? Where has Pierre Trudeau's name been in all this discussion of the residential schools? has nothing to write about so they have to keep attacking the Catholic Church. Big surprise that the Church owns buildings, sustains priests and bishops, and funds soup kitchens, shelters, support for the elderly? Stop picking on charities.

The answer is that they have to pay for burned churches. The faithful donate for the purpose of fostering their spiritual advancement & not to pay for the government’s failed colonial policies. All of Canada is responsible. So it is about money. Thought so. BradyHardin Rhetorical question, right? Evil entity.

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It’s a cult built on vulnerable people all over the world. Time for them to pay taxes, too. Because the Catholic church is like any corporate entity. The goal is to secure its survival and minimize damages. No surprise there. For the genocide in the residential schools, the Church had been just an agency of the Canadian governments. Both should be responsible for the crimes against the indigenous kids.

And women are still excluded from the management and clergy structure. Any institution that excludes women from full participation must be held to a higher level of scrutiny. The Catholic Church is a billion dollar corporation, which just happens to be tax exempt, and whose executives have charter protection to destroy an entire culture all under the pretence of religious freedom

Booze!?! The Catholic Church DOES NOT need to pay a penny. Indigenous groups use the money they receive from everyone on additional litigation and complaints, maybe more irrelevant things. Those who were wronged get NOTHING. Maybe needs to investigate this? The Catholic Church should pay what it agreed to pay as part of the Truth and Reconciliation report and its actions. But otherwise G&M you should be helping common citizens understand the truth in that 600 page report instead of spreading misinformation about the Catholic Church.

And the federal government who are actively fighting the families in court to this very day are worth trillions. Classic deflection…. This happened 100 years ago, this is going to be a tough grift for all the deceased victims to keep up with Covid dominating the headlines.

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Why aren’t they paying taxes? That’s a very good question Religion is a place for adults who has imagery friends Why aren’t they paying for their own security to protect their churches? so what? Let the government pay, they started it. This is not 1900. Church didn't get that rich by giving away money to compensate centuries of victims. It's all tax free too. So nobody but them ever sees a cent.

Because it's all about the Benjamins. End religion. Its worn out its welcome long ago.

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