INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL ABUSE IN CANADA: A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE, AND UP COMPENSATION AVENUE

The History:

In 1920, Canadian politician Duncan Campbell Scott, head of Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 until 1932 spearheaded Canada’s Policy of Assimilation. In doing so, he stated:

“I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill”

It was with these words the Bill in question was signed into law culminating in what has become known as “The Residential School Experience” for thousands of aboriginals across Canada who suffered at the hands of the Federal Government and the Churches. This suffering stemmed from the joint efforts of the Churches and the Canadian Government to build and administer a regime that required Native children between the ages of 7and 15 to be forcibly taken from their family homes and housed in Residential Schools away from their family traditions and cultures where many disturbing acts transpired.

The Abuse:

Countless tails of abuse suffered in the confines of these Residential Schools were subsequently exposed many years too late to many of the victims. Some of the Residential Schools had mortality rates, which exceeded 50% due to the spread of infectious diseases in such close quarters. There has also been well-documented reports of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse carried out by priests, nuns, teachers, and even other students all under the supervision of the Federal Government and Churches.

To shed light on the severity of the abuse, it was reported by a Residential School Survivor that she had witnessed the sexual assault of a fellow 7-year-old female student who subsequently became pregnant. Even worse, upon the birth of the baby, school officials removed the baby from the child’s grasp and threw it into a furnace while it was still alive. In addition, other common types of reported abuse involved beating children who spoke their native tongue, amongst a host of  other countless forms of abuse.

The Class Action Settlement:

As a result of these events, a National class action was launched against the Canadian Government on behalf of Residential School victims, and a 2007 Settlement with the Government was implemented, which provided for $1.9 Billion in compensation for “Common Experience Payments” (CEP) in recognition of the experience and impact that the Residential Schools had on the victims. The CEP consisted of $10,000 dollars in compensation for the first year of Residential School attendance, and $3,000 for each subsequent year of Residential School attendance.

The Independent Assessment Process (IAP):

As another component to the Settlement Agreement, victims who believe they are entitled to additional compensation beyond that already provided for in the CEP could apply to enter into the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) where a separate and impartial quasi-judicial body provides an opportunity for claimants to obtain additional compensation up to $275,000 if they can prove on a balance of probability that firstly, they suffered abuse and secondly, that the harm they sustained is plausibly linked to that abuse. This would involve actual production of medical records, school records, and other evidence to substantiate these claims.

The compensation payout is based on an objective model with predefined acts and harm levels each associated with a differing number of “compensation points”. The more compensation points, the higher the award. However each case will turn on its own set of facts as all claimants will be impacted differently. For example, “Repeated persistent incidents of anal or vaginal intercourse” would be worth the highest number of “compensation points” while “Nude photographs taken of the claimant” will be associated with a lower amount of “compensation points.” Similarly, harm levels suffered resulting in serious dysfunction such as “suicidal tendencies” will generate greater “compensation points” than harm levels resulting from modest detrimental impact such as “ anxiety and nightmares”.

However, if claims are being made for actual income loss or claims for serious psychological harms as a result of acts other than sexual abuse (Other Wrongful Acts), a more rigorous onus is on the claimant to prove these allegations and expert witnesses may be required. These forms of allegations are typically heard through the Complex Track as oppose to the Standard Track.

The IAP is the only way a former Residential School student can pursue a claim of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or other wrongful acts unless they opted out of the settlement agreement, in which case they are free to bring a separate claim through the courts.  Claimants have until September 19, 2012 to apply to enter the IAP.

Conclusion:

Prime Minster Stephen Harper issued a public apology on June 11, 2008 on behalf of the Canadian Government for its role in the Indian Residential School Abuse. The apology can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAmUe17nUdY. Despite the apology, the pain experienced by the victims will continue to linger and money will never extinguish the memories. However, hopefully these events serve as a lesson to prevent history from repeating itself in the future.

  • H. Young

    Brilliant, thank you for posting

 
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