New Waterford, Nova Scotia, coal-mining families are lobbying to prevent their island campground from being sold as part of a church settlement for victims of sexual abuse, according to CBC News.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia owns Sangaree Island, a small wooded strip of land in the Mira River. The land was set aside decades ago for coal miners and their families to use as a summer campground.
Mary White and her children are among the 40 families who still camp on the island.
“This island will never be the way it is right now if it ever leaves the parish,” said White, a member of the committee that runs the campground. “To lose it would be a sin.”
White’s group has a lease with the diocese that expires this year. Each family pays $400 annually to camp on the island.
The group hasn’t heard anything official about the island being sold. However, it suspects the diocese will sell the valuable property to help raise $18 million to compensate people who were sexually abused by priests since the 1950s.
Rev. Paul Abbass, a diocese spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on individual properties, but said there can be no exceptions outside of parish churches and glebes.
“If we start going down the road of exemptions, we will never arrive at the goal, and the goal is reconciliation and justice for victims. So how do we do that if we start saying, ‘Yes, you’re right, we’ll exempt your piece of land,'” said Abbass.
“Every property must be put on the line.”
The process of selling the land and properties is expected to take several years. Abbass won’t say how much money the diocese has collected so far from parishes, which also have to turn over nearly all their savings, minus $10,000 for ongoing operations.
“We’re about 80% in now for that piece of liquid assets,” said Abbass, “and the 20% that’s not in … there’s nothing holding it back. It’s just in some individual cases we had to give them time to let investments mature.”
The diocese covers all of Cape Breton and the three northeastern counties on mainland Nova Scotia.
Church officials reached a $12.5-million settlement last summer with one group of people who claimed they were abused by parish priests. That amount rose to $15 million once legal fees and other costs were factored in.
A separate lawsuit raised the total settlement costs to around $18 million.
Go to Facebook to read more about efforts to save Sangaree Island.