Letter of Brian Thorpe September 16, 1997
September 16, 1997
To whom it may concern:
Recently, the Moderator of The United Church of Canada has received letters from individuals who have received information via email from . This information from SISIS is attributed to Kevin Annett, a former United Church minister.
The document distributed from this source contains very serious falsehoods. The material is obviously intended to damage the reputation of The United Church of Canada and, in particular, the legal counsel for the British Columbia Conference of the United Church, Dr. Jon Jessiman.
- During a press conference called by Mr. Annett outside the United Church Conference Office on September 3, 1997 Dr. Jessiman did not take any documents from Mr. Annett’s brief case.
- The document which Mr. Annett asked for when he came to our offices following his press conference was a copy of a media release which had been distributed to all of the press gathered outside our building. As Executive Secretary of the British Columbia Conference I had been shown a copy of this press release by reporters. In order to review the release more thoroughly I took one from a stack sitting on the stoop of our building.
- The document contained no information which was new to us. Because the United Church has been commited to full cooperation with investigations of residential school issues by the RCMP and by church and First Nations groups we had already seen and shared with others many of the documents in Mr. Annett’s docket.
- Dr. Jessiman has never represented the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery under whose authority Mr. Annett served when a minister in Port Alberni.
- Mr. Annett was not fired from his church in Port Alberni. He resigned. After his resignation was announced the Presbytery decided that it would be in the best interests of both the congregation and Mr. Annett if he not continue working until his announced date of departure but that he be paid full salary and benefits during this time.
- Dr. Jessiman was not a judge at either the appeal hearing or at a subsequent hearing dealing with the Presbytery request that Mr. Annett be placed on the Discontinued Service List. At both hearings the decisions were made by a panel chosen by the Sub-Executive for the British Columbia Conference. Panel members were chosen with great care to ensure the highest degree of objectivity possible. On both panels there was noone who had any prior working relationship with either the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery or Mr. Annett. Dr. Jessiman was counsel for the panel providing them with advice on appropriate procedure in order to ensure that both hearings adhered to the rules of evidence of the Province of British Columbia and that they followed principles of natural justice. The three member panel gave extraordinary amounts of time to Mr. Annett to enable him to tell his story. Mr. Annett also had the opportunity to call other witnesses on his behalf (an opportunity which he chose not to take).
- The Decision made by the panel with regard to the placing of Mr. Annett’s name on the Discontinued Service List was based solely on his performance as a minister. There was no relationship to First Nations issues and, in particular, to issues related to the legacy of the residential school system.
- Dealing honestly and openly with the experience of the residential school system is an important part of the current agenda of The United Church of Canada. The British Columbia Conference has encouraged public forums in which former students and employees in the system have had the opportunity to tell their stories. Former students (including one student who is a part of a group suing the United Church and the federal government) and a former employee of the schools were elected as commissioners to the recent General Council of the United Church. Mr. Annett’s former church, St. Andrew’s, Port Alberni, has issued a public apology related to the residential school system. The British Columbia Conference petitioned the General Council to issue an apology. The General Council in August, 1997 re-affirmed its 1986 apology to First Nations people and asked to church to seek ways to express its repentance. As Willie Blackwater, the above mentioned student and commissioner to the General Council, has said, these are small steps but they are steps in the right direction. We are commited to continue to work with First Nations people to hear the truth about residential schools and to seek repentance and healing.
- Dr. Jon Jessiman is a long standing member of the United Church of Canada. His reputation in both the church and the legal community is very high. We will not stand by and allow that reputation to be tarnished by unsubstantiated and false accusations.