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Long wait for IAP claimants seeking compensation for residential school.

SASKATOON

When a First Nations person files a claim through the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) for abuse incurred at an Indian residential school, there is much at stake for the person both mentally and emotionally.

First the person must recall every memory of pain inflicted upon him or her, while filling out a form. After it is complete, the person has divulged all the horrid details of early childhood in residential school.

The person must then wait until he or she receives the letter in the mail, postmarked by the Government of Canada, within it an offer of thousands of dollars to compensate for abuses suffered. The letter also offers the person the right to appeal the decision if the amount is not agreed on. Usually the person accepts the amount, as there is the chance of having to wait many more months before hearing anything back.

Months go by before the much-anticipated phone call, the lawyer lets the person know the money has arrived, taking legal fees and delivering the remaining funds to the residential school survivor.

Around three years ago, on December 16, 2006, Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench Justice Dennis Ball stated in a written ruling that a settlement deal was reached for former students of Indian residential schools to receive a Common Experience Payment of $10,000 with an added $3,000 for every year attended. As well, $8,000 in advance payments were given to elderly and ailing claimants.

Last December, FSIN Vice Chief Lyle Whitefish released a statement bringing attention to the extremely slow process of IAP payments for First Nations people who suffered from the abuses at Canada's Indian residential schools.

Chief Whitefish told Sage that FSIN has been hearing many concerns from survivors about the IAP payments, especially regarding the long process to file an IAP claim.

"First of all the application is so lengthy and convoluted," Whitefish said. "And it's very hard and difficult for these (former) students to begin to write down their abuses during the schools."

"And then when they come before an adjudicator, they have to state their issue of abuses to the adjudicator and of course from the adjudicator and on it takes so long before any compensation is made ... The process is very lengthy," he said.

On top of that, Whitefish added, a lot of former students are undercompensated for the amount of abuse that they endured.

Chief Whitefish is concerned about the amount of time residential school survivors are given to file an IAP claim.

"What we're hearing is that by 2011, or early next year, the process will start to wind down and discontinue accepting applications," he said.

"So we're quite concerned that there's not enough adjudicators in Saskatchewan."

There are three adjudicators dealing with approximately 19,000 applications. Whitefish said he wants to see six or seven adjudicators made available and wonders about the amount of Form-Fillers hired to help survivors fill out the IAP forms.

"The AFN(Assembly of First Nations) were given a contract to provide form-fillers nationally. To help people apply for the IAP, but we haven't heard from the AFN," Whitefish said. "They would definitely support those survivors that haven't begun to draft or acknowledge those applications yet. So that's taking time."

Whitefish explained that the ultimate goal is for those who attended residential school to go through their healing, to restore their pride and move ahead from this dark chapter.

"Right now we're working with government, we're working with the national committee, we're continuously writing our concerns to them." Despite all the efforts and little progress, Whitefish wants to let IAP claimants know that their concerns are being heard. As well, he encourages survivors to not get discouraged, to continue their trek in getting the full compensation they deserve.

BY CHRISTINE FIDDLER

Sage Staff Writer
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Title Annotation:NATIONAL NEWS; Independent Assessment Process
Author:Fiddler, Christine
Publication:Saskatechewan Sage
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:637
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