A Winnipeg courtroom was packed to capacity Thursday with former native residential school students, who voiced their concerns with the federal government's compensation package.
A Court of Queen's Bench judge will decide if Ottawa's compensation package for former native residential school students is fair and reasonable. It is one of nine hearings taking place across the country this fall.
If the package is approved, compensation cheques could start arriving as early as next summer.
Under the $1.9-billion settlement package approved by the Conservative government in May, any former student is offered a lump sum of $10,000, plus $3,000 for each year spent in the schools. Former students can seek more compensation if they can prove sexual or physical abuse.
Some former students, however,have argued that Ottawa did not consult a wide enough rangeof former students in drafting the criteria for compensation.
Some abuse not compensated
Randy Guimond said he was worried he would not be compensated for the sexual abuse he experiencedfrom a fellow student at the Fort Alexander residential school. Ottawa's compensation package does not cover abuse by other students, he said.
"You're ashamed to bring it up, because you don't want to get beaten up — you don't know nothing about RCMPs or nothing like that," he said Thursday.
"You're in a school, but you're in a institution. I mean, they're supposed to protect you; they don't protect you."
Longtime activist Ted Fontaine said he has filed an objection to the deal as well, arguing that voices of average students were never heard when the compensation package was crafted.
"If you didn't get any kind of funding, or if you were not employed by any of the sources that were dealing with this issue, you didn't have a chance to participate," he said.
Ken Young, a senior adviser with the Assembly of First Nations, admitted the compensation package isn't perfect, but he is confident the courts will decide it is fair and reasonable.
The hearing continues Friday.