Canada’s Catholic bishops look to launch fundraising plans for reconciliation as New Year begins: process more complex than originally anticipated

Bishop William McGrattan, vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Image: The Catholic Register, CCN)

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

A national framework for a five-year, $30 million fundraising campaign in aid of healing and reconciliation with residential school survivors and their communities is coming in the new year, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops vice president William McGrattan has told The Catholic Register.

Related: Catholic TRC Healing Response underway in Saskatchewan (LINK)

Letter from Bishop Mark Hagemoen: UPDATE on Catholic TRC Healing Response and the fund-raising appeal

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

“We’re doing this work and it’s just taken longer than expected,” McGrattan said. “But I hope that it will be in the new year, in January or February, that these announcements of details would be able to be shared with the public and with Catholics.”

Extra care is being taken to ensure that mistakes made with the 2008-2014 “best efforts” campaign will not be repeated, an insider on the campaign organizing committee told The Catholic Register.

The organizing committee, made up of bishops, finance officers and fundraising experts from dioceses across the country, is focussed 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, the source said.

“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,” 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 non-profit and are directed to a non-profit organization or initiative. There are a lot of details.”

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.

“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?” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith told a press conference Dec. 2. “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.”

While the national campaign will be largely locally driven, larger dioceses with higher fundraising ceilings and less exposure to Indigenous communities may share some of the funds raised with smaller dioceses where Indigenous reconciliation needs are greater, a source told The Catholic Register.

Not just the bishops but the whole Church has to take responsibility for the legacy of residential schools and the failures of past campaigns, Mi’kmaq elder and former New Brunswick Lieutenant General Graydon Nicholas told The Catholic Register in September.

“They said the Catholic involvement will raise money (in the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement). One was to contribute toward the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the second one was in fact to raise more money for other purposes. Of course we know those targets weren’t met,” Nicholas said. “I didn’t hear too many priests from the pulpit or many bishops (during the failed “best efforts campaign) saying, ‘Hey, look this is something we’re responsible for – this is something we have to do.’”

Beyond the financial commitment, Nicholas said the campaign must build lasting relationships between non-Indigenous Catholic parishioners and Indigenous communities.