Canada

Decision day for residential schools deal

Former students of Canada's Indian residential schools have until Monday to decide whether to stay in or opt out of the largest class-action settlement in the country's history.

Monday deadline to accept $1.9B settlement

Former students of Indian residential schools have untilthe end of the dayto decide whether to opt out of the largest class-action settlement inCanadian history.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which was approved bythe federal governmentand the courts last year,will provide at least $1.9 billion to former students at the130 schoolsthat wererun jointly by the government and religious organizations until the mid-1970s.

The compensation stems from sexual, physical or psychological abusessuffered bystudents during that time. The agreement applies to about 80,000 residential school survivors in late 2005.

A government update this month said the deal could be implemented Sept. 19if there are no further appeals and fewer than 5,000 of the estimated 80,000 former students opt out. The notice indicated that opt-out numbersare low.

It's expected that each eligible person wouldreceive an average of$28,000. Students who take thesettlement won't be able to sue the government, the churches or any other defendant in the class action, the government said.

Phyllis Chelsea, a Shuswap elder from Alkali Lake in British Columbia who attended the St. Joseph Residential school,told CBC Radio's The Current on Monday that she has reluctantly agreed to accept the deal, which will provide her and her grandchildren about $34,000.

"I didn't want anything to do with it," said Chelsea, who suffered both sexual and physical abuse. "But when I saw the offer of money — for me — I had to consider that."

At his first meeting with native leaders at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs' annual conference in Winnipeg, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl told reporters the settlement is first on his mind.

Strahlreplaced Jim Prentice last week.

The payout could begin in November with the entire fund distributed by April 2008, the Globe and Mail reported.

Corrections

  • The $1.9-billion compensation agreement applies to all students who attended residential schools, not just those saying they suffered sexual, physical or psychological abuses, as previously reported.
    Aug 21, 2007 12:25 PM ET

with files from the Canadian Press

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