Residential school compensation deadline looms

Social workers are scouring Edmonton streets hoping to make contact with as many former students of residential school as possible as the deadline for compensation looms.
Outreach worker Ken Armstrong (left) helps residential school survivor Floyd Laderoute complete the compensation application prior to Monday's deadline. (CBC)

Social workers are scouring Edmonton streets hoping to make contact with as many former students of residential school as possible as the deadline for compensation looms.

"I think just the mere mention of residential school, and another government application, just right there will scare a lot of people off," said Ken Armstrong with Boyle Street Community Services.

Armstrong and a team of outreach workers are checking out back alleys, temporary encampments and known hangouts looking for aboriginal people who ever resided at a residential school.

Anyone who went to a federally recognized residential school is eligilble for compensation, which could amount to thousands of dollars.

But the deadline for people to apply for the Common Experience Payment is Monday.

The settlement program began in 2007 when the government expected 110,000 to apply.

So far it’s received about 102,000 applications, but many still have not heard about the deadline or even the program.

Process awakens painful memories

Others don't want to talk about, even if it means compensation.

"It's so intrusive," said Floyd Laderoute who put off applying until this week. "You are going to have to relive all of that.

"I'm really not too sure it's worth any amount of money to relive," he said. "I have tried everything I can in my life to forget it."

But a few minutes later Laderoute completes the form.

Many who live on the street or in the margins of poverty don’t have the necessary documents, such as a government identification.

Agencies are helping people obtain birth certificates, but admit some people will  fall through the cracks.

"We are out scouring the city today to try to get the word out to as many people as we can," said Armstrong. "but realistically there are going to be people that miss it."

The government says it will consider late applications only if there are exceptional circumstances.

Workers say with the former students getting older, it's important they receive compensation now.  

"It can put you inside in a safe place, in a warm place all winter and, for some people, that can be enough to save their lives," Armstrong said.