One of the few things that came out of the Royal Commission was a small ray of hope for the many victims of residential schools. The government would be giving $350 million to help begin the healing process.

But questions are arising about how the money will be spent.

We have just recently learned where the money will be going. It’s the latest nonprofit, tax-free bureaucracy in Indian country named the National Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

It is the brainchild of George Erasmus and eight others. They will answer the call along with eight more people to be the directors of healing the Native communities.

Erasmus, the foundation’s chair, was grilled about the healing fund by the Native media during a phone conference call. He promised to call back later to answer some of The Nation’s questions, but the phone call never came.

The new foundation will emphasize healing related to residential school, spending the $350 million or more over a period of four or five years. The money will be invested and the extra earnings will hopefully take care of administrative costs and more.

“The board is clearly committed to keeping costs down and handing out the entire $350 million,” said Erasmus.

With this funding the government is looking at closure, compensation and redress completed. Even though the foundation has received submissions for money since last January, Erasmus said no money will be released until they choose the eight other board members. Erasmus promised we would see a full

board working by June or July.

Erasmus said the foundation is in the process of working out who and what they will fund. The foundation also plans to meet with Natives from across Canada and tour the country to ask how to give out the cash.

With so many Aboriginal people looking for a piece of the pie, not everyone is going to be happy, Erasmus admitted, but people will be able to appeal the decisions of the foundation. “We are going to try to be fair,” said Erasmus, adding that the board doesn’t want any Aboriginal group to come back and say they weren’t dealt with fairly.

Funding will not be on a per-capita basis, according to Erasmus. He later said he felt the numbers of residential school victims were larger in the west and B.C. than in the Maritimes and North.

But Erasmus was unable to answer many questions with more than a comment that it’s in the development stage.

Much of the money is expected to go towards existing institutions rather than new or revolutionary programs. “They lobbied for that,” Erasmus said explaining that these institutions were knowledgeable and organized enough to do so. This may affect the multi-community survivor groups springing up here and there.

Erasmus said capital costs like building a treatment center will not be funded, though he held out hope that there could be exceptions to this.

Money will be given out to organizations and it won’t necessarily just be for residentialschool healing. He said general healing of the communities would be allowed.

For example, the Winnipeg Native community will qualify.