As the process to compensate Indian residential school survivors who suffered severe abuse winds down, efforts are being made to reach out to former students who started claims and have not followed up.

Anyone who suffered sexual or severe physical abuse at one of the schools First Nations children across the country were forced to attend could make a claim for compensation under the Independent Assessment Process or IAP.

That compensation is over and above the one-time common experience payment all former students received under the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Making an IAP claim also precluded survivors from suing any of the parties involved with the schools.

But now that the IAP is starting to wrap up, the search is on for hundreds of former students who have not completed their claims, known as "lost claimants."

"We are on track to complete hearings for claimants who suffered abuse at Indian Residential Schools by the spring of 2016," said Chief Adjudicator Dan Shapiro.

"However, there are over 400 claimants that we have not heard from for an extended time. We need to reach these individuals in order to resolve their claims."

No trust in system

The news that hundreds of former students have not finished pursuing their IAP claims shows there have been problems with the process, said Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus.

"I know many people in the James Bay region who did not want to go through the trauma of telling their story because they didn't believe they would be trusted. They didn't believe it would be a fair process," he said.

Bishop Horden

Female students at Bishop Horden Residential School in Moose Factory, Ontario. Circa 1955. (Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives/Algoma University Archives)

Angus has assisted former students who have had trouble accessing evidence related to the abuse they suffered at residential schools such as St. Anne's in Fort Albany and Bishop Horden in Moose Factory.

Survivors of both schools have taken the federal government to court over a lack of disclosure of evidence. 

The IAP requires the federal government to turn over historical records related to residential schools.

But this week, former Bishop Horden students asked a judge to force the federal government to search harder for documents they believe exist and will help corroborate their claims of abuse. The federal government argues it has disclosed everything that is available.

The judge in the Bishop Horden case has yet to rule.

But the case is similar to a court battle won by survivors of St. Anne's. In 2014, a court forced the federal government to disclose thousands of pages of police records, which documented convictions of staff at that school.

Claimants urged to call

The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat said it has received 37,962 applications for compensation under the IAP.

More than 83 per cent of the claims have been resolved, and more than $2.78 billion has been paid out in compensation by the federal government. There are still over 6,300 claims in progress.

The adjudication secretariat said thousands of notices have been distributed to band offices, friendship centres, health centres and other community organizations in an effort to reach remaining claimants, while still respecting their confidentiality.

Claimants who have unresolved claims or who have not heard anything about the progress of their claim over the last several months are urged to contact their lawyer, or call the IAP Information line at 1-877-635-2648 to ensure that their claims continue to move forward.