Posted: Sep 12, 2012 4:19 PM CST
Last Updated: Sep 12, 2012 4:17 PM CST
There’s only one week left for survivors of Indian residential schools to file abuse claims with the federal government — and the offices receiving the claims have been extra busy.
“We expected the applications to increase in the last couple of months … and that has happened,” said Daniel Ish, Canada’s chief adjudictor for abuse claims. “In the month of August, there were over 1,500 applications.”
The five-year period to apply for compensation expires on Sept.19.
Anybody who hasn’t already done so, should get their forms in the mail as soon as possible, Ish said.
“We do not want people to be shut out,” Ish said.
The good news is that the initial paperwork required isn’t extensive, he added. The applicant’s name, school, years of attendance, and some information about the abuse that occured should be included on the forms, but the details can be provided later, he said.
By the 19th, the government expects to have received about 29,000 applications, with more than one in five coming from Saskatchewan. These are from aboriginal people who say they were sexually or physically abused at residential schools.
About $1.6 billion has already been paid out under the program. The remainder of the claims should be settled over the next two years, Ish said.
The schools, typically run by churches under the supervision of the federal government, were mainly set up in the early part of the 20th century, with the last one closing in the 1990s. Thousands of former students have alleged they were sexually or physically abused by staff or fellow students.
Compensation can range from $5,000 to $275,000 and possibly more if loss of income is added, according to the government.
Under a separate process, former students who attended the schools were eligible for additional compensation, with the amounts varying depending on how long they attended.
The period to apply for that compensation — called Common Experience payments — has expired, although some exceptions can be made in case of hardship. In those situations, the deadline is Sept. 19.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has apologized to former residential school students on behalf of the Canadian government.
Boyle Street staff fan out to find abused residential school survivors
Organizers say hundreds likely still need to apply for settlement before Sept. 19 deadline
The Edmonton Journal
11 September 2012
By Elise Stolte
EDMONTON – Dozens of Boyle Street staff fanned out across Edmonton Tuesday, searching for former Indian residential school students who suffered abuse and might miss out on six-figure financial settlements.
Staff estimate there are hundreds of eligible former students who still haven’t submitted a claim, and found more than 70 by searching the streets Tuesday.
Former students have until Sept. 19 to apply under the independent assessment process, set up to compensate anyone who was physically or sexually abused at the schools which operated for more than a century across Canada.
Many Boyle Street clients struggle with homelessness, mental health issues or drug addiction and have put off having to relive the painful memories, said Jane Slessor, a manager with Boyle Street Community Services.
“It’s opening up a can of worms most people have tried to keep closed. They’re worried, what if I open this up? Am I going to be strong enough? Am I going to survive the process?”
But she tells them to start the process and take advantage of the counselling and health supports that come with it. “Just get your foot in the door because you might change your mind.”
Outreach worker Colin Inglis set out across the Baccarat Casino parking lot Tuesday morning with a stack of pamphlets. He poked his head into an orange tarp being used in a tent in remote corner.
“It’s Colin from outreach. Anybody in here attend residential schools?” he asked the people inside.
“Are you in touch with your mom? Did anyone else in your family go to residential school? It’s kind of the last opportunity for people to get a settlement, OK?” he said, without getting much response.
He carried on to the Greyhound Station, where he found Les Waskahat standing outside.
“I was thinking I was going to apply,” said the Cree-Dene man from Cold Lake. Inglis gave him a stack of pamphlets and urged him to call Boyle Street or the national information line.
Waskahat said he would think about. He attended Blue Quills Residential School, but didn’t apply earlier because he was living on the street for several years, he said.
The compensation is part of the residential schools settlement signed in 2007, which included an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The compensation has two parts, a common experience payment for anyone who could prove he or she attended one of the schools. With a fairly simple form, former students received $10,000 for the first year in school and $3,000 for each subsequent year, a recognition every student suffered a loss of culture and language.
That program ended last year after $1.6 billion was handed out.
The Independent Assessment Program is for former students who suffered severe physical or sexual abuse. It requires a hearing. Boyle Street refers claimants to work with a lawyer to fill out the forms.
As of July 31 this year, adjudicators had settled 14,166 claims. They handed out more than $1.5 billion, which is an average of $112,000 per claimant. The amount of each award can vary greatly.
There were 2,482 claims withdrawn or ruled ineligible, the Indian Residential Schools Secretariat website says.
As the deadline approaches, Boyle Street is getting 10 to 15 new applicants each month. They work with Field Law and several other nearby legal offices.
“People are really hesitant. They think they are going to be in court; they think they are going to be defending themselves against a judge and their experiences in front of a court in the past have (often) been not so great,” Slessor said. But there is no judge involved, and the hearing is generally in an informal office, she said.
The federal government pays for cultural supports, a psychologist if needed, said Ken Armstrong, the main contact at Boyle Street for claimants. It’s not just about the money, he said. “Even if they choose not to go through the process, connecting to those supports will help them long term.”
The national information line for the program is 1-877-635-2648. Former students can also call the 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.
Chief Adjudicator sets standards for lawyers under Independent Assessment Process
August 30 2012
Regina, August 30, 2012 — The Chief Adjudicator of the Indian Residential Schools Independent Assessment Process (IAP) today released standards for lawyers who practice in the IAP. The document, which is available on the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat’s website, provides guidance to claimants on what they can expect from their lawyer and sets out the appropriate norms of practice for lawyers in the IAP.
“Indian Residential School survivors depend upon seasoned, competent lawyers to successfully pursue their compensation claims and assist with their healing journey,” said Chief Adjudicator Daniel Ish. “In most cases, these Expectations will reflect the existing practice of lawyers involved in the Independent Assessment Process,” he said.
The document sets clear standards for legal practitioners in a wide number of areas related to the Independent Assessment Process:
- Lawyers must ensure they are competent to act under the IAP, and restrict their IAP practice to the number of cases they can handle at one time;
- Lawyers must ensure that their clients understand the IAP process and provide them with realistic expectations on the length of time it may take to resolve their claim,
- Lawyers must properly prepare claimants for their hearing, and
- Counsel should facilitate their clients’ healing process by making sure they are aware of appropriate support resources in the community, including counseling and treatment services.
The document also spells out clear expectations related to legal fees, financial arrangements and the right of claimants to change lawyers if they are not happy with the service they receive. “As Chief Adjudicator, I have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the Independent Assessment Process and to uphold the letter and the spirit of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement,” said Ish. “I take this responsibility seriously and this document provides useful guidance to help claimants and lawyers engaged in the Independent Assessment Process,” he said.
In addition, lawyers under the IAP must comply with rules and guidelines issued by the Chief Adjudicator, provincial Law Societies and the Canadian Bar Association’s guidelines for lawyers working on Indian Residential Schools claims.
The application deadline for the IAP is September 19, 2012. Hearings will continue for several more years.
Related document: Expectations of Legal Practice in the IAP
Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat