Indian Residential Schools Unit
Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
Nine judges approved the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRRSA) as fair and just compensation. The IRRSA included truth sharing and commemoration to achieve the overarching principles of healing and reconciliation from the Indian Residential School experiences. Despite the June 2008 Apology, many former IRS students and their families feel the core principles of healing and reconciliation are not being met. The following resolutions call on the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Executive to continue to play a key and central role in the IRSSA through advocacy for former IRS students and protection of their interests in the IRSSA:
- Resolution 26/2010 calls on the AFN to apply for funds to establish commemorative markers (monuments) for all Indian Residential Schools in which First Nations children were placed.
- Resolution 21/2011 seeks support for Day Scholars and calls on the AFN to provide moral, political, legal, and financial support seeking redress for Day Scholars and Day School students that includes healing.
- Resolution 54/2011 requests that the AFN seek a three-year extension to the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) and that it support the Blood Tribe to ensure all IAP claimants are treated fairly and equitably, including adequate preparation for hearings and appropriate health supports and the engagement of proper authorities should there be any indication of criminal wrongdoing in the handling of IAP settlements.
Key Issues and Activities
The AFN and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation jointly submitted a proposal to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in March 2012 in the second and final call for proposals for Commemoration funding. The proposal articulates a national framework to establish 141 commemorative plaques and monuments (markers) for each Indian Residential School in Canada recognized in the IRSSA. The project meets all seven criteria of the Commemoration Fund established by the IRSSA.
Funding for this initiative would provide for tasks performed both centrally and regionally―in and by communities and overseen by an Advisory Committee and Elders. While Resolution 26/2010 initially defines the project as one that is exclusively First Nations in character, the AFN acknowledges the many Inuit and Métis children who attended the schools and the respective communities that faced losses akin to those suffered by First Nations. The AFN has established protocols with Inuit and Métis organizations that may effectively include their active participation and support of the project. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, as a partner, is also focused on healing the legacy of residential schools for all those affected and as such is wholly inclusive in its approach. For this reason, both parties are in agreement that First Nations, Inuit and Métis will be represented in the Steering and Advisory bodies, and in the design of the markers themselves. We anxiously await funding decisions on this important project.
Day Scholar/Day School Class Actions
The Joan Jack Law Firm, in conjunction with Spiritwind, filed a class action on behalf of Day Scholar and Day School students. It is reported that the Merchant Law Group has agreed to work on the class action. Day Scholars and Day School students along with Chiefs held a successful national conference in Winnipeg on May 2, 2012. National Chief Shawn Atleo attended in full support of redress for Day Scholars/Day School students.
On November 16, 2011, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Sechelt First Nations announced their intentions to launch a class action on Day Scholar/Day School. The National Chief attended the meeting in Kamloops in full support of redress for Day Scholars/Day School students.
On November 15, 2011, the National Chief wrote a letter to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) seeking redress for Day Scholars and Day School students, as well as an apology.
Independent Assessment Process (IAP) three-year extension
AFN representatives for the National Administration Committee and IAP Oversight Committee have been advised of Resolution 54/2011 and to make a Request for Decision to extend the deadline through existing mechanisms built into the IRSSA. The Oversight Committee has issued guidelines for lawyers in the IAP.
Blott & Company and Associates investigation and alleged violations of section 13.05 of the IRSSA and s. 67 Financial Administration Act
Under the terms of the IRSSA, the courts have a supervisory role in the IRSSA. The purpose of the courts’ ongoing supervision of the settlement and judgment awards is three-fold: to protect the interests of the absent class members; 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; and, to ensure the timely and effective distribution of the benefits of the award by the Administrator of the Settlement.
As party to the IRSSA, the AFN continues to protect the interests of former IRS students in the IRSSA. As such, the AFN has provided leadership by engaging the courts in their supervisory role through an investigation and court hearings related to Blott & Company and Associates who are alleged to have violated the IRSSA and Financial Administration Act impacting thousands of claimants who may have not received the full benefit of their IAP settlements. The IRSSA bans the assignment of any amounts payable under the IRSSA until 100% of the Common Experience Payment (CEP) monies are received by claimants; the Crown debt will not have been discharged. Crawford Class Action Services engaged KPMG forensic auditors to conduct a comprehensive audit of all of Blott & Company’s CEP and IAP files, retainer agreements and fee arrangements with Honor Walk Ltd., Funds Now Inc., Residential School Healing Society of Canada, David Hamm, Thom Dennome, Bridgepoint Financial Services Inc., and Settlement Lenders of Canada Inc. A final report with recommendations by Crawford Class Action Services was filed on February 24, 2012. Parties to the IRSSA made submissions to Justice Brown based on the report from April 30 to May 2, 2012 in Vancouver, B.C. Justice Brown reserved decision.
The AFN Executive recommended that a three-person Chiefs Committee provide direction to AFN counsel on the Blott & Company investigation, including potential remedies, and to ensure the claimants’ rights are protected in the process. The AFN Executive also supported the submission of an AFN IRS Outreach and Consultation proposal to the court hearing (April 30-May 1, 2012) so that Blott & Company claimants’ rights to information are protected and health supports are provided.
The AFN facilitated presentations and discussion on the IRSSA at the National Justice Forum in February 2012.
AFN Aboriginal Assistance Support Workers
In conjunction with regional leadership, the AFN has coordinated Aboriginal Assistance Support Workers (AASW) in specific regions where there are gaps in uptake on IAP applications. The AASW provide information and assistance in filling out applications for the IAP. The project is only available until the IAP deadline in September 2012.
Health Canada provides health supports to former IRS students and families in the IRSSA. Health Canada’s mandate derives from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada engaging them to provide health supports. Accountability and responsibility for adequate health supports remains with AANDC as party to the IRSSA. The closure of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) has created gaps in healing services for former IRS students. Health Canada is providing health supports as part of the TRC process, but unlike AHF programming, these are not community‐based and ongoing. There is no certainty of ongoing funding for 12 residential school treatment programming currently funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. First Nations leaders continue to express concerns about the lack of funding for health supports for IRS claimants. Individual IAP claimants impacted by the Blott & Co and Associates investigation are feeling re-victimized by a process that was meant to protect their interests.
CEP Surplus and Personal Credits
At December 31, 2011, the annual audited statements of the CEP Designated Amount Fund indicate a surplus of over $341 million. Any and all amounts remaining in the Designated Amount Fund on January 1, 2015 will be paid to the National Indian Brotherhood Trust Fund (NIBTF) and the Inuvialuit Education Fund (IEF).
Under the terms of the IRSSA, if the balance of the CEP Designated Amount Fund is more than $40 million after CEPs are paid, all CEP recipients are eligible to receive Personal Credits for education purposes to a maximum value of $3,000 per person (no cash value). The Personal Credits are only redeemable for personal or group education services provided by education entities or groups pursuant to terms and conditions being developed by Canada and the AFN. Similar terms and conditions will be developed by Canada and the Inuit representatives.
Indian Residential School Additions to the IRSSA
There were 1,447 requests to add Indian Residential Schools to the official list of schools under the IRSSA; the majority have been denied.
As of June 30, 2011, the following schools have been added: St. Paul’s Hostel, Dawson City, Yukon; Anahim Lake Dormitory, Anahim, BC; Cote Improved Federal Day School, Kamsack, Saskatchewan; Battleford’s Industrial School; Fort George Hostels, Quebec; Wawanosh Home, Ontario; Stirland Lake, Ontario; and Cristal Lake, Ontario.
Other applications currently working their way through the court appeal process include the Timber Bay School (Saskatchewan), Grouard Indian Residential School (Alberta) and Mistassini Indian Day School (Quebec).
Hearings will be held together on applications to add Coqualeetza Indian Hospital (BC), Lac La Biche Indian Residential School (Alberta) and St. Augustine’s Indian Residential School (Alberta) under Article 12 of the IRRSA.
A schedule has been set for cross-examinations regarding the addition of the Teulon Residence (Manitoba) as an IRS under the IRSSA.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has held several successful national events. Upcoming events include the Saskatchewan National Event in Saskatoon on June 21-24, 2012, Vancouver on September 18-21, 2013, and Quebec and Alberta. There will be a national closing ceremony in Ottawa. The TRC has reported that it does not have an adequate budget to complete its mandate, requiring further discussion with parties to the IRSSA.
Next Steps - Moving Forward
- Continue to attend court hearings and advocate to protect the interests of former IRS students in the Blott & Company and Associates issue to ensure that claimants are treated fairly and receive the benefits they are entitled to.
- Support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in efforts to ensure it has access to information and resources to complete its mandate as outlined in the IRSSA.
- Facilitate Aboriginal Assistance Support Worker services to former IRS students wishing to access the Independent Assessment Process.
- Continue to advocate for adequate health supports for former IRS students and their communities.
- Continue to provide support to achieve justice and redress for Day Scholars and Day School students.