The Assembly of First Nations says it has a better plan to administer the dispute resolution process arising out of claims for abuse in Canada’s native residential schools.
In a report released last month, Canada’s Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools, the AFN analyzes the federal government’s current Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, administered by the federal office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada, and finds it grossly inefficient.
Only 19 claims have been settled under the current ADR process and it is estimated there are as many as 12,000 residential schools survivors involved in class-action lawsuits.
The AFN report notes that, at the current pace, it will take 53 years to settle all claims at a cost of $2.3 billion in 2002 dollars, and this does not even include the actual settlement costs.
“The current ADR process is an adversarial system that is not working and is in fact re-victimizing many survivors,” said National Chief Fontaine. “It is failing Canadians by wasting taxpayers’ dollars. It is failing First Nations and all Canadians by denying timely and just compensation.”
If the government adopts the approach recommended in the AFN report, all claims could be resolved by December 2010 in a more cost-efficient manner, Fontaine said. It recommends a two-pronged approach to improve the current process. The first part involves fair and reasonable compensation, including a lump-sum payment that would be awarded to all survivors (or their descendants), along with an additional amount for each year spent in the school. Survivors can also be compensated for severe emotional abuse as well as physical and sexual abuse.
The second part of the report puts forward the concept of creating a national mechanism for truth-sharing, healing and reconciliation.
“We have always said that healing is about more than cutting a cheque,” said National Chief Fontaine. “The after-shocks are still being felt today and we cannot move forward until we have healed ourselves as individuals and as a country.”
The report concludes that the current ADR process is seriously flawed in a number of ways, notably:
– It treats survivors unequally;
– It fails to address or compensate for forced labour, loss of family life, emotional abuse and loss of language and culture;
– The application forms are unnecessarily complicated, intimidating and confusing;
– It takes too long and its administrative costs are disproportionately high compared with the number of settlements;
– It does not address the need for truth-sharing, public education and awareness.
The Report on Canada’s Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools is available for download at www.afn.ca.