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2005: Compensation agreement for 80,000 former residential school students

The Story

Ten thousand dollars. That's what 80,000 former students of Canadian residential schools will be compensated for their ordeal. And $10,000 is just a starting point: for every year beyond the first, survivors will get an additional $3,000. For the Canadian government, it was finally time to deal with the backlog of claims and lawsuits filed by former students. In this CBC-TV clip, Native leader Phil Fontaine says he's pleased with the $1.9-billion deal. But for some elderly survivors, money can't repair the damage wrought by the residential schools. "No amount of money can ever take the place of the pain and the torture," says survivor Inez Dieter. For her and others who were seriously abused, the new agreement leaves room for more redress. They can opt out of the package and proceed with lawsuits for their pain and suffering. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 23, 2005
Guests: Inez Deiter, Phil Fontaine, Florence Isaac, Anne McLellan
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Mellissa Fung
Duration: 2:32

Did You know?

• The agreement proposed a dispute resolution process that improved on that which was announced in 2002.

• Some of the money in the package was dedicated to commemorating the experiences of residential school survivors ($10 million) and to a "truth and reconciliation" process ($60 million).

• The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, set up in 1998 for residential school survivors, also received a further $125 million.

• On the day the compensation was announced, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler called the residential school policy "the most disgraceful, harmful and racist act in our history."

• The agreement did not include a formal apology from the government to all students. In 1998 the government apologized to those who were sexually and physically abused, but in 2005 some Aboriginal groups were pressing for a more general apology for the act of placing Aboriginal students in residential schools.

• In a symbolic gesture in May 2007, federal MPs from all parties voted unanimously to pass a motion calling on the House of Commons to apologize to residential school survivors. But Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said it could take at least five more years for the Canadian government to issue a formal apology. Prentice said the government should wait until the compensation package -- including a major report expected to be issued by a new "truth and reconciliation" commission -- is fully implemented.

• The compensation deal was finally formalized on Sept. 19, 2007.  On that day, survivors were officially able to apply for compensation. Payments were expected to average $28,000 per applicant. At a ceremony marking the occasion, Native leader Phil Fontaine said, "This is an important day. It is a day of celebration. It is a perhaps -- and I don't want to overstate this -- even a turning point in the history of our nation."


A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools more