Residential school compensation deadline arrives

Monday marks the last day in which aboriginal people who were forced to attend residential schools can apply for Common Experience Payment which is $10,000 form of federal compensation for what they endured.
The deadline to apply for compensation for those aboriginal people forced to attend residential schools is Monday, with some exceptions given to those with disabilities or certain circumstances who are unable to file at this time. (James Mackenzie/Canadian Press)

Aboriginal people who were forced to attend residential schools have until the end of Monday to apply for a Common Experience Payment, the federal government's $10,000 compensation for what they endured.

The compensation provided under the Indian Residential Schools Agreement (IRSSA) seeks to promote reconciliation with the aboriginal community. It is the largest class action settlement in Canadian history and includes payment to any people who formerly resided at a recognized residential school.

Whitehorse lawyer Laura Cabott, who has been representing clients that attended residential schools for the past 15 years, said she encouraged all who attended the government's church-run hostels and residences to apply for compensation  

"There's no extension at this point to the Common Experience Payment so people need to get [their application] in on the 19th," Cabott said.

She also urges those whose schools are not yet on the list to submit the application anyway. "If your school, if your hostel, if your residence is not on the list, file your Common Experience Payment application anyway and at some later date the government or the courts will determine whether that school should be added to the list," she said.  

Many yet to apply

Despite Monday's deadline many have not submitted their applications yet.

Richard Watts, a resolution health support worker with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, has been helping others fill out forms in the past few weeks.

He said that many who haven't applied have not done so due to fears of pain resurfacing.

"My understanding is some people don't want anything to do with it," Watts said, "It just brings up too [many] issues for them of what happened in the schools, and they're trying to get on with their lives, and they're just going to leave it be, they're not going to bother."

Watts added that many of the people who refuse to file an application feel it isn’t near enough.

"No amount of money in the world is going to pay for what happened, is one of the things I hear quite a bit," he said. 

The application deadline for those who are disabled or can prove exceptional hardship or circumstances has been extended for another year.

The expected number of application is around 110,000 and so far 102,310 have applied.

The IRSSA includes the Common Experience Payment that means each eligible, verified former student would receive $10,000 for the first school year and $3,000 for each successive year.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was also created to promote public education and awareness about the residential school system and give former students a chance to discuss their experiences.

The IRSSA also includes an Independent Assessment Process that provides compensation to claims of serious sexual, physical or any form of abuse that caused psychological damage.

Canada formalized the milestone $1.9-billion compensation in 2007. The schools were run for about 100 years between the 1870s to the mid-1970s.