Alberta's residential school students start claiming compensation
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 | 3:14 PM MT
Alberta's 14,000 residential-school survivors are one step closer to receiving compensation payments now that they have application forms to fill out.
Former students gathered at the Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton to seek help with the forms, released by Ottawa Wednesday.
Adelard Beaver said this is a day he thought would never come.
"As they say the old cliché, it's a closure for me anyway," Beaver told CBC News. "I was in a residential school 15 years, and to tell you the truth, I don't really regret it, but what I regret is I lost my culture. I'm 64 years old and even my language, my Cree language ... I can't even pass it on to my grandchildren."
Twenty-five of the 130 residential schools run by churches and funded by Ottawa from the 1870s until the mid-1970s were in Alberta.
Under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which was approved by Ottawa and the courts last year, the federal government expects to pay out $1.9 billion to former students who say they were taken from their families and suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse in the schools.
About 80,000 claims are expected from across the country. Individual payments are $10,000 plus $3,000 for each year someone spent in a residential school. The average payment is expected to be $28,000.
"Irrespective of what they do with that money or how much of it they get, it's something that has been coming for a long time and people have been waiting anxiously for this," said Terry Lusty, president of the Residential School Survivors Society of Alberta.
"There's been a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion, a lot of anger out there because … it's been a long waiting process for them."
Lusty hopes people who fill out their application forms in the next few weeks will get their cheques by the end of this year.
A number of survivors opted out of the settlement. Among them is a group of about 200 people who endured very serious abuse and trauma, and who have rejected the cash, choosing instead to take the federal government and religious organizations to court for running the institutions.
Survivors can also seek support from a truth and reconciliation commission, which was set up as part of the settlement agreement process. It allows people to share their experiences in the schools and put them on the record.
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