Indian Residential Schools

AFN Annual Report 2013

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) continues to play a central role advocating for the full implementation of the Indian Residential Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) and to achieve the overarching principles of healing and reconciliation for former Indian Residential School (IRS) students and Canadians.

Key Issues and Activities

Implementation of the IIRSSA is in the final stages of its mandate. The AFN continues advocacy work on behalf of former IRS students and their families as liaises with service providers to facilitate the overarching principles of healing and reconciliation.

Common Experience Payment
There is $1.9 billion set aside for the Common Experience Payment (CEP) in the IRSSA which recognizes the experience and impacts of residing at an Indian Residential School.  There are 78,750 former IRS students currently eligible for the CEP; this may be augmented if applications to add schools to the IRSSA currently before the courts are granted approval. Newly added schools will have dates specified for the CEP and Independent Assessment Process (IAP) applications.

CEP Surplus & Personal Credits
Audit reports as of December 31, 2012 indicate a surplus of $323,303,000 in the CEP allocation. All eligible CEP recipients will now be eligible for a $3,000 personal credit (no cash value). A Request for Direction is being processed through the supervisory courts that will outline the terms and conditions of the CEP credits as well as the organization that will administrate the distribution of the credits. The personal credits are only redeemable for personal or group education services provided by education entities or groups pursuant to the terms and conditions developed by Canada and the AFN and approved by the supervisory courts. The court order will specify a specific timeframe for the personal credit program to be implemented and concluded.

Under the terms of the IRSSA, following the payment of personal credits to all eligible CEP recipients as well as the costs of administering the credits, all excess funding remaining in the Designated Amount Fund on January 1, 2015, will be transferred to the National Indian Brotherhood Trust Fund (NIBTF) and Inuvialuit Education Fund (IEF) to be used for education programs. The AFN has established the NIBTF with a Board of Directors that will be responsible for administering the CEP surplus following payout of the personal credits.

Independent Assessment Process
The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) is a settlement fund for claims of sexual abuses, serious physical abuse and other wrongful acts. Current data indicates 37,340 IAP applications were received by the September 19, 2012 deadline. To date, the IRS Adjudication Secretariat reports approximately $1.952 billion in awards have been paid out, an amount that includes lawyers’ fees and disbursements.

Resolution 54/2011 called on the AFN to request a three-year extension to the September 19, 2012 deadline. The AFN sent out notices via fax broadcast but to date has received limited personal requests from former IRS students for an extension. A current provision of the IRSSA is that any individuals who have missed the September 19, 2012 deadline must apply to the courts within their jurisdiction for consideration to be accepted into the IAP process.

Alleged Violations of the IRSSA and Financial Administration Act by Lawyers in the IAP
Under the terms of the IRSSA, the courts have a supervisory role in its implementation.  The purpose of the courts’ ongoing supervision is three-fold:

  1. To protect the interests of absent class members;
  2. To ensure the overarching principle that those to whom the settlement is intended to apply are treated fairly and equitably in the distribution of the award;
  3. To ensure the timely and effective distribution of the benefits of the award by the Administrator of the Settlement.

On December 14, 2007, former Justice Brenner indicated that the IRSSA is clear and unambiguous, and it bans the assignment of any amounts payable under the Agreement.

Resolution 03/2012 calls on the AFN to support the Blood Tribe in their class action against Blott & Co. and Associates who have been alleged to arrange high interest loans for former IRS students which were inappropriately recouped from settlement funds. An assessment outlines that claimants have a valid legal action against Blott & Co. The AFN continues to provide support to the Blood Tribe leadership and liaise with claimants impacted as requested.

Two additional Requests for Direction have been filed by the Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat to investigate violations of the IRSSA and FAA in central interior of BC as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Day Scholars & Day School Class Action
Joan Jack and Spiritwind continue to seek justice for Day School students and Day Scholars. The National Chief attended the 2012 and 2013 Day School Conferences in Manitoba in full support of Day Scholars and Day School students.

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Sechelt First Nation launched a class action for Day Scholars from their respective communities. National Chief Atleo attended various meetings in support of Day Scholars including the launch of the class action. In a recent federal court hearing, Canada attempted to dismiss the case and have the matter returned to provincial courts; the Judge disagreed. Canada has now filed an appeal of the Judge’s ruling.
Commemoration Project
Resolution 26/2010 directed the AFN to work to ensure commemorative markers were in place for each and every Indian Residential School where First Nations children were placed. The AFN and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) are working on a national framework to establish 141 commemorative plaques/monuments for each IRS recognized in the IRSSA. 

Funding for this initiative provides for tasks performed both centrally and regionally – in and by communities and overseen by an Advisory Committee and Elders Advisory Committee. While the AFN resolution initially defines the project as one that is exclusively First Nations in character, as a national initiative the AFN acknowledges that many Inuit and Métis children attended Indian Residential Schools and their communities and families have experienced losses akin to those suffered by First Nations.

The AFN has established protocols with these organizations that may effectively lend to their active participation and support of the project. The AHF, as a partner, is also focused on healing the legacy of the residential schools for all those affected and as such is wholly inclusive in its approach. The AFN, AHF, Inuit and Métis are in agreement that all will be represented in the Steering Committee and Advisory Bodies, and in the design of the markers themselves.

Truth & Reconciliation Commission
The TRC was created through the IRSSA to produce and submit to the Parties of the Agreement a report including recommendations to the Government of Canada concerning the IRS system and experience including: the history, purpose, operation and supervision of the IRS system, the effect and consequences of IRS (including systemic harms, inter-generational consequences and the impact of human dignity) and the ongoing legacy of the residential schools.

All Party Leaders have been meeting to address various issues regarding fulfilment of the TRC’s mandate. The TRC was scheduled to have completed its mandate by June 14, 2014; however, this is not possible. 

The TRC issued an Interim Report in February of 2012 which contained 20 recommendations including: funding for increased public education, the need for resources to support the promotion of First Nations languages and cultures, enhancement of mental health support services, and using the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for working towards reconciliation between First Nations and all Canadians. The All Party Coordinating Committee continues to meet to advance recommendations contained in the interim report. A Document Collection Working Group continues efforts to ensure that all relevant documents are available to the TRC to carry out its mandate.

The All Party Committee re-established various working groups including the National Events Working Group (NEWG) to discuss national events and the final report.

National Chief Atleo and the AFN National Executive participated in the opening walk of the Montreal National TRC event on April 24, 2103. Two more national events are scheduled. The BC National Event will be held in Vancouver, September 18-20, 2013. The Alberta National Event is scheduled for March 27-30, 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta. The TRC indicates they will have a national closing event in Ottawa.

Reconciliation Canada, a charitable project to promote reconciliation by engaging Canadians in dialogue that revitalizes the relationship between Aboriginal people and all Canadians will hold reconciliation events. An All Nations Canoe Journey is scheduled for September 17, 2013 as well as a Walk for Reconciliation and a Multicultural Celebration event on September 22, 2013.

Health Supports
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program (IRS RHSP) provides mental health and emotional support services to former IRS students and their families before, during and after their participation in the Settlement Agreement processes. Health Canada continues to receive a $65 million annual budget to deliver this program.

The closing of the AHF has had and continues to have a devastating impact on the health and well-being of former IRS students and their families. 

Resolution 18/2012 requests that the AFN provide support and assistance to seek ways for the Healing Centre programs to continue their valuable work with former IRS students. The Healing Centres have experience a demand in services resulting from the IAP deadline as well as the TRC and Commemoration events, all which trigger trauma that requires treatment provided by the Centres.

The IAP process has provisions for post-IAP wellness plans that could include specialized treatment programming such as the programs offered by the Healing Centres. Current alcohol and drug treatment programming are not trained to deal with trauma related to Indian Residential School issues. Normally there are long waiting lists at alcohol and drug treatment programming before anyone can access the services.

The Healing Centres provide essential services to support healing, wellness and reconciliation among former IRS students, their families and within their communities.

Advocacy & Partnerships (APIP)
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has cut most funding for the APIP program with the exception of the national organizations. Former IRS students still require regional supports as they navigate their way through a complex IAP process. The loss of regional funding puts greater pressure on the national organizations whose funding was also cut. The frustration felt by former IRS students and the families is not conducive to the overall goals of healing and reconciliation in the IRSSA.

Next Steps - Moving Forward

  • Continued support and advocacy for justice for Day Scholars and Day School students.
  • Implementation by AFN and AHF of the commemoration initiative to establish markers at each IRS site by March 2014.
  • Continued advocacy with and for the Healing Centres to meet the ongoing specialized treatment programming needs of former IRS students, especially with the IAP expected to extend its hearing and completion dates.
  • Monitor implementation of the roll-out of the personal credits in the IRSSA.
  • Continued advocacy, as directed by AFN Executive, to protect the interests of former IRS students in Requests for Direction with the courts.
  • Continued engagement with the TRC and the All Parties Coordinating Committee in implementation of the Interim Report.

Assembly of First Nations