By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Thousands have signed a petition demanding the charitable status of the Canadian Catholic Church be revoked because of the church's treatment of residential school survivors, Canadian media reported Thursday.
The action comes as other measures have been bandied about, including the cancellation of property tax exemptions for the Catholic Church.
Vancouver resident David Thomson said he initiated the online petition, which as of Thursday had 6,000 signatures, because the church has to date stymied the release of residential school documents that would include the name of attendees.
As well, he was incensed that the church defaulted on its promise to pay survivors CAN$25 million ($20 million) while spending CAN$300 ($240 million) million on construction projects, as well as lawyers and administration fees, Thomson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
He hoped the suspension of the charitable status, under which donations to the church are tax deductible, goads the church into action.
"I wanted to help support justice and equity and fairness for Indigenous people in Canada. Why don't we go after the charitable status? That's going to get the attention of the Church," he said.
"I thought, 'Wow, wait a second. This Church, this institution is basically piggybacking on Canadian taxpayers to support its behavior.'"
If the church does release all documents on the residential schools -- Catholic orders ran 60% of the 139 schools dating back to the 1800s -- then the charitable status could be resurrected, said Thomson.
The petition has proven a hot potato for political parties. The Liberal, New Democrat and Conservative parties turned down interview requests from the CBC, and none would say if they agreed with the petition.
A spokesperson for the tax collection Canada Revenue Agency said to suspend the charitable status, a full investigation that the church violated the status would have to be conducted.