New Brunswick

89% of residential school compensation claims settled, AFN told

The Assembly of First Nations' 40th annual general assembly wrapped up Thursday in Fredericton with talk about residential school compensation claims and what should be done with the abuse assessment records of victims.

Thursday marked the 3rd and final day of the 40th annual general assembly in Fredericton

AFN legal counsel Stuart Wuttke provided chiefs with an update Thursday on the residential school compensation claims process. (CBC)

The Assembly of First Nations' 40th annual general assembly wrapped up Thursday in Fredericton with talk about residential school compensation claims and what should be done with the abuse assessment records of victims.

As of May 31, about 99 per cent of applications for compensation have been completed, AFN legal counsel Stuart Wuttke advised the gathering of First Nations leaders from across Canada.

Of those, nearly 89 per cent have been settled, he said.

The average payment made was $111,000, and Canada has paid out about $3.2 billion to former students.

In 2007, the federal government agreed to compensate residential school survivors — Indigenous children who were taken from their homes and put in government-funded schools run by churches up until 1996.

Those who wanted individual amounts based on their personal experience went through an independent assessment process.

As the process winds down, residential school survivors are now being asked to decide what they want done with their personal files — request them for their own use, archive them with the Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, or have them destroyed come 2027.

Leo Metatawabin, Chief of Fort Albany First Nation, said he was strapped to a hand-cranked electric chair as a form of punishment. (CBC)

Several chiefs lined up at the microphones in the Fredericton Convention Centre in the New Brunswick capital to weigh in on the issue.

"If somebody wants to study the residential school syndrome or the effects, I think it's our responsibility to provide that information," said Chief Leo Metatawabin of Fort Albany First Nation in northern Ontario.

He recalled being strapped to a hand-cranked electric chair. "It zaps you, and you could feel it on your arms and going into your body."

'These things did happen'

"These things did happen," said Chief Donny Morris of Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug in northwestern Ontario. "That's why I feel strongly that these records should be kept."

Chief Irvin Bull of Erimineskin Cree Nation in Alberta agreed. "You know that history that's there … why should our files be destroyed?"

Ted Quewezance, former chief Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, said his story of abuse is for his "children, and for the general public, and for the world."

46 resolutions

Delegates voted on 46 resolutions dealing with a wide range of issues, including an education omnibus package.

It calls on the federal government to assist in the development of a 10-year implementation plan "that will ensure every school, every grade, and every class has access to Treaty education resources and training" and to make treaty education mandatory in each provincial and territorial school system.

It also seeks additional funding in 2020 for First Nations elementary and secondary education, and a First Nations education infrastructure review.

The chiefs voted on several resolutions on the final day of the Assembly of First Nations' 40th annual general assembly Thursday in Fredericton. (CBC)

The three resolutions were adopted by majority, with six votes opposed and one abstention.

An omnibus bill on health, which included voting against any national pharmacare, also passed.

And the AFN will request funding for a First Nations child and youth advocate for each region.

During closing remarks, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said only by being unified will the AFN bring about 'substantive change.' (CBC)

Afternoon talks focused on fisheries, sports and culture, as well as the AFN charter renewal. National Chief Perry Bellegarde gave his closing remarks around 5 p.m., before the closing ceremonies.

Climate change and water protection were top of mind Tuesday, the first official day of the assembly. The chiefs voted unanimously to declare a global climate emergency.

On Wednesday, the chiefs discussed federal elections issues and vowed to influence party platforms. The assembly has heard from members of the country's four main federal parties.

With files from Catherine Harrop