All nine provincial and territorial courts approved on March 8 the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), a move that could mean that the agreement may be implemented by fall.
With the collective approval in place, the “opt-out period,” which is a court requirement for class action, begins. This means that former students of native residential schools have until Aug. 20 to declare if they want to opt out of the agreement. If 5,000 out of an estimated 80,000 residential schools students opt out of the agreement, it would be up to the federal government to decide whether to move ahead with the deal.
“This is good news,” Ellie Johnson, director of the national church’s partnerships department, told the Council of General Synod (CoGS), the Anglican Church of Canada’s governing body between meetings of General Synods.
Once the agreement is implemented, government will begin accepting applications for the Common Experience Payment and the Individual Assessment Process. The former provides former students compensation of $10,000 for the first year of attendance in residential schools and $3,000 for each additional year. Negotiators estimate that claimants will receive between $24,000 and $25,000 in Common Experience Payment. Acceptance of that payment releases the government and churches from any further action but allows students who have suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse to follow the Individual Assessment Process to claim compensation.
The Anglican Church of Canada renegotiated its agreement last year with the federal government following an announcement in November 2005 of a new $1.9 billion compensation package that would be offered to tens of thousands of aboriginal Canadians who attended Indian residential schools. The Anglican church operated 26 of 80 boarding schools attended by aboriginals from the mid-19th century into the 1970s.
The revised accord will reduce the financial commitments of General Synod – the church’s national office – and dioceses by almost 40 per cent, or a maximum of $15.7 million. An earlier agreement, signed in 2003, committed the church to a cap of $25 million in compensation.