Litigation alternative on hold as government addresses concerns

By on September 1, 2003

The federal government has postponed the start of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process for former Indian residential school students until the fall in order to address concerns raised by native people, according to Ralph Goodale, the federal minister responsible for the government?s Indian Residential Schools Resolution office. “Earlier this year, we had hoped to launch the ADR system this summer, but we postponed the start-up in order to … make the proposed system as user-friendly as possible,” Mr. Goodale wrote in a letter to the Anglican Journal (the letter arrived at press time and will be published in the October issue). “The government is aiming to have its ADR option in place and functioning before the end of this year. It will provide a new way for former Indian residential school students to make their claims and pursue settlements,” the letter read. Members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), a national church committee representing aboriginal Anglicans, last March criticized an agreement between the federal government and the national church that limited the church?s liability in connection with damage suits filed by former students. One concern raised by native representatives was the structure of the proposed ADR process, which was intended as a faster, more humane way of adjudicating claims than the court system. ADR hearings would take place in meeting rooms before professional arbitrators. However, some people objected to the requirement that claimants sign a release, waiving their right to sue the government in the future. “We have been listening to the views of ACIP, as well as various claimants, their lawyers and other stakeholders on … the nature of any release form that will be required,” Mr. Goodale wrote. In late July, Ellie Johnson, director of the Anglican church’s partnerships department, attended a meeting in Calgary to consult with former students and government representatives about the ADR process. Mr. Goodale also noted that the ADR process is voluntary and is not tied to the settlement agreement between the government and the church.

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