The Canadian government and church leaders are still squabbling over who should pay compensation to the Native survivors of residential schools.

The Feds want the churches that ran the schools to take responsibility and pay some of the money, expected to be in the billions.

But the Anglicans and some of the other churches are complaining the compensation payments might drive them into bankruptcy.

A Vancouver lawyer who represents Native people who started Canada’s first residential-school lawsuit says the churches’ complaints are ridiculous.

“Quite frankly, I don’t believe it,” said David Paterson.

“I don’t believe for a minute that it’s going to drive any of them into bankruptcy. The real question is, do they take the issue seriously?

“If there was a fire that burned down the biggest cathedral in the country, they would raise the money in no time. There are 4.5 million members in the United Church. They can raise a dollar each,” he said.

Paterson said the real problem is wealthy urban congregations don’t want to help the national church bodies shoulder the costs.

But courts have already ruled that the churches share the blame for the abuse, and must split compensation payments with the government.

Paterson was involved in one of the cases, which related to the Port Alberni residential school in B.C. A judge ruled the United Church and Ottawa were equally responsible for abuse at the school.

Since the first residential schools were created in 1620, an estimated 100,000 Native kids passed through the system. It’s not known how many are alive today.

The government ended its partnership with the churches in 1969, but the churches kept running some schools until 1986.

A recent report sponsored by the federal Justice Ministry said most schools were badly funded, and many children ate rotten food and became cheap labour for nearby farms. Disease was also rampant and kids were punished for speaking their languages.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles of the Anglican Church of Canada has pointed to the report as proof that the government should bear “more responsibility” than the churches.