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Ottawa seals compensation deal with Anglican Church

The federal government and the Anglican Church of Canada signed an agreement Tuesday to establish a settlement fund to compensate victims of abuse in native residential schools.

The agreement was reached in principle in Ottawa last November. It calls for the national church to contribute $25-million towards compensating claimants in lawsuits filed since the federal government officially apologized in 1998 for widespread abuse.

It is estimated that more than 90,000 aboriginal children aged six and older attended the live-in schools - often against their will - from 1930 until the last one closed outside Regina in 1996.

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The schools, funded by Ottawa but run by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian churches until the 1970s, also are blamed for stripping generations of former students of their native languages and culture.

More than 4,500 lawsuits representing at least 12,000 claimants have been filed since the late 1990s. To date, a handful of lawsuits have made it through the courts, with conflicting judgments on how church and government should split costs.

Anglicans are involved in about 20 per cent of the lawsuits.

About one lawsuit per day is now being resolved out of court with average payouts of less than $100,000. Ottawa has paid more than $37-million to settle about 550 out-of-court settlements since 1996.

The agreement signed Tuesday comes into effect Saturday. It was signed by Archbishop Michael Peers, the Anglican primate, and federal Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale, whose portfolio includes responsibility for residential schools resolution.

Vianney Carrier, a spokesman for the church, said it's still uncertain when victims will be receiving compensation from the fund.

Before being signed, the agreement had to be ratified by each of the church's 30 dioceses. The dioceses also had to agree to commit a total of $22-million over the next five years to a settlement fund. General Synod, the Anglican Church's national organization, contributed $3-million.

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