Canadian Bishops Announce Reconciliation Campaign Fundraising Effort

Bishop William McGrattan, vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced a fundraising effort coming in the new year. Unlike the previous $25 million “best efforts” campaign that raised just $3.7 million, the CCCB commitment to raise $30 million over five years is absolute.

Newsroom (07/11/2021 12:00 PM, Gaudium Press) A national framework for a five-year, $30 million (US$23.5 million) fundraising campaign to help with healing and reconciliation of residential school survivors and their communities is coming in the new year, as per Bishop William McGrattan, vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Church officials hoped that plans for the campaign, first announced Sept. 27, would be complete by November 2021, but getting the framework in place for a national diocese-by-diocese effort has turned out to be more complicated than first thought.

Bishop McGrattan said he hoped that in January or February, “announcements of details would be able to be shared with the public and with Catholics.”

“We realize that it has taken longer than expected, but it’s important that we do this right and that we make sure that it is both transparent and that it demonstrates accountability,” Bishop McGrattan said.

“We’ve drawn upon the expertise of people in terms of governance — yes, fundraising and also legal — because we do have to make sure that these funds are received by a nonprofit and are directed to a nonprofit organization or initiative. There are a lot of details.”

The organizing committee, made up of bishops, finance officers and fundraising experts from dioceses across the country, is focused on ensuring the campaign is consistent with the 94 Calls to Action that came out of the 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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That report said the removal of Indigenous children from their families over a century, when they were sent to residential schools, amounted to “cultural genocide.” About 60% of the government schools were run by Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

In a September apology, the Canadian bishops acknowledged the residential school system “led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous peoples.”

“We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual. We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples that continue to this day,” the bishops said.

Unlike the previous $25 million “best efforts” campaign that raised just $3.7 million, the CCCB commitment to raise $30 million over five years is absolute. If parishioners and donors fail to give the full amount, dioceses will make up the difference. Much of the organizing effort has gone into ensuring that, while bishops can be held accountable for the money raised, they are not seen as directing or dictating how the funds are spent.

Dioceses or regions will form local committees of Indigenous leadership to consult with bishops on the disbursement of funds for Indigenous priorities.

At a Dec. 2 news conference, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said: “We’ve started the process here in the Archdiocese (of Edmonton) to reach out to Indigenous leaders, to help us to discern the needs that are in the community. Might there be some programming that exists already in the community that can be supported by the dollars that are raised? This is going to be unfolding over the next little while, but I think the key thing for us to keep in mind is that these efforts will be Indigenous discerned and Indigenous led.”

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