Today, Sept. 19, marks the deadline for former Indian residential school students to submit their applications for Common Experience Payments (CEP).
The CEP is an element of the 2007 court-supervised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) involving former students, the federal government and churches that administered the schools in the 19th century. The Anglican Church of Canada, which administered about three dozen schools, is a signatory to the agreement.
As of June 30, 2011, the Service Canada website reported receipt of 102,310 applications. Of those, 99,901 have been processed. However, 22.5 per cent of the applications-22,507-may not be eligible for payment. Some applications are still the subject of reconsideration, amendments and appeals. Common issues include missing school or baptismal/birth records, while some schools are not on the eligible for compensation list.
The average compensation amount is $20,596.
There are also reports that some students have not submitted applications because they are not ready to deal with their past, having suffered physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse at the schools.
Richard Watts, a health support worker with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, told the CBC that “some people don’t want to do anything to do with it [CEP]. It just brings up too [many] issues for them of what happened in the schools, and they’re trying to get on with their lives … they’re just going to leave it be; they’re not going to bother.”
Native groups have also raised concerns that some who live on the streets may be unaware they are entitled to compensation.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada said CEP applications would still be considered for up to one year after Sept. 19, 2011, if former students can prove they were unable to submit an application “due to disability, undue hardship or exceptional circumstances.”
The CEP is “just one piece of a comprehensive approach to healing and reconciliation as we work together to move forward from the dark history of residential schools,” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. “Based on direction by Chiefs, AFN continues to advocate to strengthen and improve support for survivors and the Settlement Agreement process itself.”
The AFN, a signatory to the agreement, also supports actions by former students and legal counsel “advocating for any addition of an Indian Residential School” to the list of those eligible for compensation.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Metis attended schools not recognized in the agreement as eligible for compensation, according to Metis National Council President Clement Chartier, who spoke last June at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national event in Inuvik. These schools were church-run but were funded either by provincial governments or by religious orders, and were not part of the federally funded schools system.
The compensation plan represents the federal government’s acknowledgment that native culture and languages were harmed by the now-defunct school system, said former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, who negotiated the revised agreement on behalf of Ottawa.
Upon application and verification, former students eligible for the CEP receive $10,000 for their first year of attendance at a native boarding school and $3,000 for each school year thereafter.
Former students who resided in one or more recognized Indian residential schools and who were alive on May 30, 2005, are eligible for the CEP, provided they have not opted out of the settlement agreement.
Application packages are available at www.servicecanada.gc.ca or by calling 1-866-699-1742; TTY 1-800-926-9105.
In addition to the CEP, the IRSSA also includes an Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which is an out-of-court process for former students to resolve claims of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and other “wrongful acts” suffered at Indian residential schools. The deadline for the IAP is Sept. 19, 2012.