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Secret deal with Vatican: Harper sold out Residential School victims

John Bell

August 22, 2022

Now that the Pope’s so-called apology tour is in the books, secret documents have been released under freedom of information showing the Catholic church, in Canada and in the Vatican, had no intention of paying the more than $25 million restitution to victims of their Indian Residential Schools.

To date the church has paid about $3.5 million of its obligation to survivors and the families of victims. They have said they would make “best effort” to fundraise the rest from church-goers. 

In 2015, in the dying days of Stephen Harper’s Tory regime, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt signed off on a backroom deal letting the Catholic church off the hook. The newly released documents say, in part: "Canada does hereby remise, release and forever discharge the Catholic entities – its directors, officers, shareholders, agents, lawyers, and employees – of and from all manners of actions, causes of action, suits, debts, dues, accounts, bonds whatsoever against the releasees."

It says the Canadian government “covenants and agrees” not to aid IRS victims in any legal proceedings against the church.

People may recall that Valcourt, as an opposition MP, dismissed the charge of genocide in the final report from the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as “propagandist”.

The language of his deal is so broad and sweeping that Indigenous advocates concede there is no hope of legal appeal.

The current Liberal government, and Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller are content to release the information to score political points against the Conservatives. But they were careful to keep it quiet until after the Pope’s tour was over.

The federal government paid at least $35 million for the Pope’s travel and security costs. In the end the Vatican got a free publicity tour and Indigenous people got a few pious words.

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