Catholic church in Saskatoon court over residential school payments

The federal government is taking the Catholic church to court over residential school money it claims is unpaid.

Federal government says Catholic Entities owe $1.6 million

A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School, Red Deer, Alberta, ca. 1914 or 1919. (United Church of Canada, Archives)

The federal government is taking the Catholic church to court today over residential school money it claims is unpaid.

In 2006, churches that ran residential schools, including Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian denominations, agreed to make reparations.

While most denominations settled their claims years ago, the federal government said the Catholic Entities charity still has $1.6 million outstanding.

"I think it's very disappointing," said Mike DeGagné, former head of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF).

The Healing Foundation was originally supposed to receive $29 million from the Catholic Entities. 

However, DeGagné said over the years, that number was whittled down to about $18 million.

The Catholic Entities claim the remaining $1.6 million was spent on lawyers and legal fees and is a legitimate expense.

DeGagné disagrees and said other money, including a $25-million fund Catholic groups committed to raise never arrived.

"What it says is, you don't really understand how harmful residential schools were, and you're not honestly intent on making things right," DeGagné said.

In a submission to the court, federal prosecutors call the legal/consultant fees, "excessive, abusive and were paid for monies that were clearly destined to the AHF."

Ironically, the Healing Foundation closed its doors last month, after 16 years of operation.

"They simply played for an endgame where the Healing Foundation has disappeared," he said. "Fortunately, the Healing Foundation was wise enough to transfer the Catholics' obligation to another charity that addresses residential schools. So, any settlement will go to the Legacy of Hope Foundation."

The matter is set to appear at Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench October 9 and 10.