While the federal government may have started to pay out common experience payments to residential school survivors in 2007, the end grows near for those who may still want to file for the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).

Members of the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have already been travelling to Eeyou Istchee to spread their message and they will be visiting more communities come January.

“With the IAP, some people have heard of it, while others know little about it. So, we wanted to make sure that community members are aware of the IAP, the fact that it is separate from the common experience money,” said Peter Rinaldi from the Secretariat.

While many may have filed for the Common Experience Payment (CEP), Rinaldi said what most people don’t understand is that the IAP is something specific that survivors need to file for and at that, may require assistance in doing so.

The Secretariat’s team has already visited Eastmain and Wemindji and will be looking to make it to all the other Cree communities beginning in January to give out information on the IAP and also to hand out individual packets that survivors can use to apply for the funds.

Their mission is simply to engage with those who have been to residential school and to encourage them to apply to this program so that they can receive more money for the suffering they have endured.

According to Rinaldi, the IAP is for those who went to residential school and suffered abuse that was physical, sexual or psychological. This abuse could have been at the hands of a teacher, a school employee or even another student as it was the responsibility of those who worked there to ensure the safety of the students and stop any wrongdoing.

Comparatively the funds made available for the CEP, according to Rinaldi, were more about the government’s acknowledgement of the experiences that everyone went through in residential school, such as being taken away from their families and suffering horrible living conditions.

“Part of the message that we want to get out to the communities, is that it is important to share your experience, to put it down on paper and put it into the process,” said Rinaldi.

All of the information that is acquired by the Secretariat is kept confidential and the only individuals who will see it are the complainant’s legal counsel and the adjudicators who assess the complaint and decide what kind of compensation the complainant is entitled to.

Though it’s not necessary, Rinaldi said the Secretariat recommends that those looking to file do so with the aid of legal counsel as the packages they have to fill out can be complicated. An additional 15% of the settlement will be paid out by the Secretariat for the complainant’s legal fees. It is important however to verify with legal counsel prior to engagement as not every lawyer charges the same fees.

If some individuals don’t feel comfortable working with a lawyer, they can work through the documents themselves.

How much each individual will get from filing for the IAP is based on a special question matrix that was developed for this process.

“With the matrix, a grid has been created which allows the adjudicators – who sit in the room with the claimants and hear their experiences – to grade the level of harm that the claimants may have received. The intent of the matrix is that it was designed to be as fair and as equitable to everybody going through the process,” said Rinaldi.

Rinaldi added that the type of matrix they are using was developed around the typical process for this kind of scenario and what it does is takes people’s experience and grades it against the different aspects of that matrix and comes up with a number. He gave the example of getting 44, 66 or 88 questions out of 100 within the assessment matrix and how each number of questions answered would total a different award calculated.

Most importantly however, Rinaldi said the deadline to apply for an IAP is September 19, 2012, so time is running out.

“Many people feel that this is something that only happened to them and that is part of the outreach, to get out there and tell them that it is not just you, it is not just something you should hide from. If you want to deal with this, it has happened to others and it is something important to try and deal with because it is part of the healing process for them,” said Rinaldi.

For more information, call 1-877-635-2648 or go to www.irsad-sapi.gc.ca