By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Indigenous chiefs expressed disgust at the Canadian Catholic Church's failure to present a US$23.3 million fundraising plan for residential school survivors, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Wednesday.
The CBC learned that details of the fundraising goal and when fundraising was to start would be made public in November, following a promise made in September by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
"The Bishops of Canada have committed and tasked themselves to develop national principles and strategy, timelines, and the public communication of these collective initiatives this November," the promise read.
It is the latest in a series of broken promises that did not surprise Indigenous chiefs and residential school survivors.
"For God's sake, look at their history," said Chief Byron Louis, of the Okanagan Indian Band in the Canadian province of British Columbia. "Why do people expect anything different from them?"
A CCCB spokesperson told the CBC that the fundraising plan will be available soon.
"The $30-million (US$23.3 million) national financial pledge is an ambitious undertaking, requiring substantial efforts from dioceses across the country," said the Catholic Bishop's Jonathan Lesarge in an email to the CBC. "A group of bishops have been working diligently to develop a strategy that ensures this pledge is transparently achieved and that all funds are allocated to deserving projects with appropriate oversight."
Lesarge added fundraising will begin in the "near future."
Chief Louis said the church could write a check for the money right now, citing the fact more than US$233 million was earmarked for Catholic building projects at the same time the church made a promise to compensate survivors. Other Indigenous leaders expressed the same view.
"They are protecting their assets," said Louis. "These are not the actions of a church. This is a corporation."
The survivors were forced to attend historic Indian Residential Schools, an educational system of 139 schools that began in the 1820s - the last one closed in the 1990s.
About 150,000 Indigenous children were forced into the system and it is estimated about 4,000 died from disease and abuse. The Catholic Church operated about 60% of the schools which were established to drum out Indigenous culture in the children.