Residential school settlement seems to be accepted by most survivors

From the Edmonton Journal ...

Residential school settlement OK'd
CanWest News Service - August 21, 2007

REGINA - The deadline for native people to sign up for a multibillion-dollar national settlement came and went on Monday, with the critical number of people agreeing to take the money.

If 5,000 had refused the settlement, Ottawa would have had the right to scrap the deal.

But few declined, meaning an aboriginal who was forced to be away from his or her family while attending a residential school will get an average $27,000.

The minimum payment is $10,000, plus $3,000 for each year he or she spent in a residential school.

The federal government forced generations of native children to attend residential schools run by six Christian denominations. Stories of dislocation as well as physical and sexual abuse are typical of their experiences. The policy continued up to the 1960s.

Under the settlement, victims of the worst physical or sexual abuse can get up to $250,000 and up to another $250,000 if it cost them lost income over the years.

Those who opted out of the settlement process will not receive any money through the common-experience payment option or through the independent assessment process.

However, they retain the right to sue the government or churches on their own.

An estimated 80,000 survivors are still alive.


From CBC News online ...

Money-managing workshops in the works for residential school deal
August 21, 2007

Former students of Indian residential schools had until Monday to decide whether to opt out of a historic class-action settlement, and now the federal government is preparing to help recipients handle their money.

The $1.9-billion compensation package from Ottawa could be implemented as early as Sept. 19, assuming no more than 5,000 of the estimated 80,000 former students opt out and no further appeals are filed.

Students taking the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement will not be able to sue the government, churches or any other defendant down the road.

"We've had relatively few opt-outs at this point," said Gina Wilson, assistant deputy minister of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada, the federal department tasked with implementing the settlement.

"I figure probably in about another week or so, the courts will come back to us and let us know how exactly many opt-outs we have received. But I understand that the numbers are relatively low."

The agreement, approved by the federal government and the courts last year, stemmed from the sexual, physical and psychological abuses of students at the 130 Canadian schools run jointly by the government and religious organizations until the mid-1970s.

Wilson said applications for compensation will be made available Sept. 19, and cheques could start going out as early as October. It's expected that each eligible person would receive an average of $28,000.

Wilson said she expects some positive economic spinoffs from the compensation, such as recipients buying new vehicles, fixing up their homes or paying bills, but she said people must also be aware of possible pitfalls.

"We know in our communities we have addiction problems. We have trauma that can be not well supported," she said.

"We have frauds and scams, and we also have encountered elder abuse, and so we're very cautious of that."

Working group launched

The federal goverment has established a community impacts working group to help people manage their compensation funds.

Made up of federal departments, aboriginal organizations, churches, police and front-line workers, the group has already scheduled workshops on investments in about 150 communities across the country.

That kind of investment assistance is crucial, said Marius Tungilik, a former residential school student from Repulse Bay in Nunavut.

"Some people will spend it foolishly without a doubt," said Tungilik, who attended a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet from 1963 to 1969.

"There will be some people who just feel it's not their money to begin with, and there may be the temptation to spend it all at once or as quickly as possible. And life can become one huge party for a while, and before you know it, it will be all gone without anything to show for it."

Tungilik said former students who want to feel "a sense of ownership" of their compensation should leave the money in the bank for a few days or weeks before spending it.

"You will get the feeling that it is yours to spend," he said. "Have a plan as to how you will use that money. Without a plan it's very easy to just spend it."


From CBC News ...

Decision day for residential schools deal - Monday deadline to accept $1.9B settlement
August 20, 2007

Former students of Indian residential schools have until the end of the day to decide whether to opt out of the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which was approved by the federal government and the courts last year, will provide at least $1.9 billion to former students at the 130 schools that were run jointly by the government and religious organizations until the mid-1970s.

The compensation stems from sexual, physical or psychological abuses suffered by students during that time. The agreement applies to about 80,000 residential school survivors in late 2005.

A government update this month said the deal could be implemented Sept. 19 if there are no further appeals and fewer than 5,000 of the estimated 80,000 former students opt out. The notice indicated that opt-out numbers are low.

It's expected that each eligible person would receive an average of $28,000. Students who take the settlement won't be able to sue the government, the churches or any other defendant in the class action, the government said.

Phyllis Chelsea, a Shuswap elder from Alkali Lake in British Columbia who attended the St. Joseph Residential school, told CBC Radio's The Current on Monday that she has reluctantly agreed to accept the deal, which will provide her and her grandchildren about $34,000.

"I didn't want anything to do with it," said Chelsea, who suffered both sexual and physical abuse. "But when I saw the offer of money — for me — I had to consider that."

At his first meeting with native leaders at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' annual conference in Winnipeg, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl told reporters the settlement is first on his mind.

Strahl replaced Jim Prentice last week.

The payout could begin in November with the entire fund distributed by April 2008, the Globe and Mail reported.

Corrections and Clarifications
The $1.9-billion compensation agreement applies to all students who attended residential schools, not just those saying they suffered sexual, physical or psychological abuses, as previously reported. - Aug. 21, 2007