Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Survivor payouts likely to soar

More claims coming for residential schools

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A portion of the historic residential school settlement to compensate survivors could double in size before the deadline for applications in September, federal aboriginal affairs and residential school settlement officials said Monday.

So far, $1.5 billion has been paid out and there are more than 15,000 applications yet to be processed.

Ottawa set aside $960 million under the court-ordered settlement in 2006 to be paid to 12,700 survivors.

That was the best estimate experts had at the time about the number of people eligible to be compensated for enduring years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the schools that operated for more than a century in Canada.

The federally funded schools were largely run by churches in an attempt to assimilate aboriginal people.

By the time the last school had closed in the 1990s, aborginal leaders universally condemned them for the destruction of aboriginal languages, cultures and a plethera of social and economic problems.

Calculating how many people were damaged was a daunting task, officials said.

"At the time, the projections were based on experiences that were as similar to this as could be found in other jurisdiction and other countries," said Akiva Starkman, executive director of the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, the agency that administers the court-ordered settlement.

Starkman conducted a teleconference interview with reporters, along with Joan Katz, the secretariat's executive director, and Aideen Nabigon, director generation of the settlement agreement with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

The average payment averages $117,613, far larger than the initial projection of $86,000.

Officials believe the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission has got the word out about residential school abuse, reaching more survivors in remote areas than initially anticipated.

Settlement administrators believe there may be thousands of additional survivors who have yet to file an application.

Time is running out.

Compensation applicants have until Sept. 19 to file their compensation claims.

The settlement, approved by nine provincial and territorial superior courts in 2006, settled all residential school claims in Canada.

Some 80,000 survivors were eligible for a settlement from a $1.9-billion common experience fund paid to every living survivor.

The independent assessment process component was separate and only survivors who could show they'd suffered abuse were eligible for compensation.

The two funds were the main settlement components, but there was also $20 million set aside for commemorative projects, $100 million for lawyers' fees for survivors, $60 million for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and $125 million for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2012 A4


Updated on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM CDT: Corrected deadline to Sept. 19

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