Residential Schools

residentials-schoolsOn June 11, 2008, in the Parliament of Canada, Prime  Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of all Canadians for “the policy of assimilation” and the terrible pain and suffering endured by aboriginal peoples, including Inuit, who attended Indian residential schools and hostels in Canada. The prime minister said this policy “had no place in a country like Canada.”

Makivik remains committed to ensure all former residential school students receive justice.

The apology by the prime minister and the other elements of the Residential Schools Settlement Act, are historic achievements, but there also remains unfinished residential school business, especially within Nunavik.

Several hundred Nunavik residents are excluded by both the apology and the common experience payment.  These are former foster students who were sent from home and boarded with families. They were not under the care of either the churches or federal schools, but came under provincial jurisdiction.

Makivik remains committed to ensure all former residential school students receive justice.

More information on residential schools is contained in the history section of this website. Additionally, any former students requiring assistance can go to www.trc-cvr.ca or contact the Makivik offices in Montreal or Kuujjuaq.

BACKGROUND:

On June 11, 2008, in the Parliament of Canada, Prime  Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of all Canadians for “the policy of assimilation” and the terrible pain and suffering endured by aboriginal peoples, including Inuit, who attended Indian residential schools and hostels in Canada. The prime minister said this policy “had no place in a country like Canada.”

The apology came after years of hard work, by all aboriginal organizations, including Makivik.

The Apology was one of the conditions set out in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, a negotiated and court approved agreement by aboriginal organizations and the Government of Canada and churches that operated the schools.

The President of Makivik Corporation, Pita Aatami, attended the official apology along with three (3) former students – Simeonie Nalukturuk, Louisa May, and Putulik Papigatuk – to represent Nunavik Inuit’s survivors of the residential schools.  ITK President, Mary Simon, responded in the House of Commons to the Prime Ministers apology on behalf of all Inuit in Canada.

HOW IT CAME ABOUT:

In recent years, there were growing public accounts of abuse at residential schools all across Canada, and increasing numbers of lawsuits and class actions suits were being launched in the courts, on behalf of former students. Approximately 80,000 people alive today resided at residential schools operated by the Government of Canada, and between 350 Nunavimmiut.

KEY COMPONENTS OF THE AGREEMENT:

While the formal apology was critical to addressing the long standing legal and moral grievances held by aboriginal peoples and Inuit it was one element of the overall settlement agreement designed to provide fair compensation for pain and suffering and, at the same time, move towards national reconciliation and healing that includes the following:

Common Experience Payment (CEP)

The CEP set out a compensation formula for most of those who attended residential schools, by establishing set amounts for compensations based on the amount of time a student attended residential schools.

These payments were to be made with 35 days of approved applications being received by the government on the following basis: $10,000 for the first year of attendance, $3,000 for subsequent years.

$1.9-billion was set aside for the Common Experience Payments (CEP) to survivors. The agreement  stated the payments would not affect social assistance benefits and is not subject to income taxes, which was an important point raised by Nunavik negotiators, considering Inuit pay all federal and provincial  income taxes.

By accepting the CEP formula, former students relinquished their rights, and the rights of their families, to sue the government and the churches in court for anything related to residential schools.

As of May 15th, 2008, the Government of Canada announced that over 92,000 CEP applications were received; and, to that date, over $1.25-billion in CEP payments were paid by the government to former students.

However, a number of Nunavik applications were also denied, and these are being appealed and reviewed by the Common Experience Payment response center.

In order to assist former students, a series of questionnaire, affidavits and other forms were developed by Makivik and distributed via the communities’ various organizations and the corporate website.

A list of these documents is attached and additional information can be obtained by contacting M_Lariviere@Makivik.org.

INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT PROCESS (IAP)

If former students are not satisfied by the terms of the Common Experience Payment and can demonstrate that they  suffered sexual, serious physical, and/or psychological abuse, they can make a claim for additional compensation through an out of court process called the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).

Those who attended but did not reside at a residential school may also make claims for abuse under the IAP.  The compensation offered is between $5,000 and $275,000 (or more if a loss of income is proven). Claims can be made by the former students themselves or through a lawyer.  Makivik recommends to survivors to hire a lawyer, and 15% of their fees will be paid by Canada in addition to the award granted to the applicant.  We foresee that an application will require two years before adjudication.  The adjudicator named for Quebec is Judge Dutil.

As of January 2008, over 1800 cases for claims for severe abuses were being processed at various stages.  Makivik recommended that throughout that important process a lawyer accompany the applicants, and a list of independent legal counsels has been made available to survivors.

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC)

One key element to the agreement is the creation of an independent commission that will contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation of former students and their families.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was officially established on June 1st, 2008, with the nomination of Chair Justice Harry S. Laforme of the Ontario Court of Appeal, himself an aboriginal, and of Commissioners Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley (see the TRC official website at www.trc-cvr.ca). The $60-million tribunal has a five-year mandate and will undertake public hearings across the country. The TRC has undertaken to ensure that anyone affected by the Indian residential schools legacy will have the opportunity to share such experience in a safe and culturally appropriate manner, through individual statements, private or public. Details for the TRC events and actions are still to be confirmed.  The commission has the legal power to examine all church and government files concerning the schools, including records of the deaths of thousands of aboriginal children. The commission is also expected to investigate persistent and not yet proven allegations of unreported deaths.  The commission will finally produce an official history of the institutions along with a report, recommendations and a lasting memorial. It is modeled in part on the truth-and-reconciliation process that helped South Africans heal the wounds of apartheid. Commemoration aspects (radio, movie, book, memorial, etc) are also under the TRC, with a funding of $80-million.

ENSURING NUNANIK RESIDENTS WERE HEARD AND CONSULTED

Makivik Corporation hosted a two-day Conference in Kuujjuaq on September 19-20, 2007:

Thirty three former students representing Nunavik communities attended along with representatives from regional and national organizations. In all, about 100 participants set out to enhance understanding of the settlement agreement, and to promote awareness of all available programs.

They also discussed the potential health, social and economic impacts the agreement may have on former students, their families and communities. The participants expressed their concerns for those who died in the schools, the involvement of elders, and the trauma experienced by the parents.

They insisted the TRC must be committed to healing and reconciliation that is culturally appropriate with clear criteria, and stressed the importance of a resource centre in Nunavik to work closely with the TRC.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

The apology by the prime minister and the other elements of the Residential Schools  Settlement Act are historic achievements, but there also remains unfinished residential school business especially within Nunavik.

Several hundred Nunavik residents are excluded by both the apology and the common experience payment.  These are former foster students, who were sent from home and boarded with families. They were not under the care of either the churches or federal schools, but came under provincial jurisdiction.

They are for the most part caught in a bureaucratic and political grey zone, where no government will accept responsibility for their treatment, which was as severe to them and their families as for those who were sent to residential schools and hostels.

Both Makivik and Inuit Taparit Kanatami continue to demand justice and compensation for those students who were excluded by the governments of Canada and Quebec and the general public.

The regional and national leadership have committed to continue to fight this issue until there is justice for all.