Residential School Package Approved by Federal Cabinet
Saskatchewan Sage [Canada]
July 12, 2006
Residential school survivors are one step closer to receiving their share of a $1.9 billion compensation package now that the federal cabinet has put its stamp of approval on plans for the pay out.
That approval finalizes the agreement-in-principle announced in November 2005 but the plan must be approved in nine provincial courts and a five-month opt-out period must pass before the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement will come into effect.
Once that happens, every eligible former residential school student will receive a common experience payment of $10,000 and an additional $3,000 for each year they were in residential school beyond the first year. The compensation will only be paid out to former students who were still living on May 30, 2005, the date negotiations to hammer out the agreement began, and they must have attended a recognized Indian residential school.
Cabinet approval of the settlement agreement was announced May 10, as was the launch of the advance payment program designed to fast track partial compensation to eligible residential school survivors who were 65 or older as of May 30, 2005.
Once the settlement agreement is formally implemented, an alternative dispute resolution process, the Independent Assessment Process, will be established and will be the only way former students can pursue claims of sexual or physical abuse that occurred in the schools unless they formally opt out of the settlement agreement.
A truth and reconciliation commission will be established, with a five-year timeframe. The role of the commission will be to promote public education about the legacy of the residential school system and to provide survivors and their families and communities will opportunities to share their experiences in a safe, culturally appropriate environment. The commission will operate with a budget of $60 million.
Another $20 million will be made available to fund events and memorials commemorating the residential school legacy, and $125 million will be provided to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to fund healing programs for a five-year period.
The churches involved in operating the residential schools have committed an additional $100 million in cash and services to further support healing initiatives.
Students who are eligible can apply for an advance payment of $8,000 by filling out a form available on the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Web site (www.irsr-rgpi.gc.ca) or by calling 1-800-816-7293. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is also working to get application forms out to survivors. Copies of the forms are being sent out to band and tribal council offices and to people listed on the organization's database of residential school survivors. Applications for advance payment will be accepted until Dec. 31.
While many First Nation leaders have expressed their satisfaction that the compensation package has been approved, Metis National Council (MNC) President Clem Chartier is disappointed that the deal has left many Metis residential school survivors out in the cold.
The Metis have been virtually ignored by the compensation plan, a press release issued by the MNC on May 10 alleges. Chartier is particularly concerned that the Ile a la Crosse boarding school isn't included in the list of recognized residential schools covered by the agreement. The school doesn't fit within the federal government's criteria because it was run privately by the Catholic church. Former students of the school launched a class action suit in December 2005 when it discovered the school wasn't going to be covered in the planned compensation package.
"Former students say abuse clearly occurred at this school and the facts cannot be ignored," Chartier said.
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