Few 'fast track' dollars getting to residential school claimants
Figures released in Ottawa show that less than $1 million has been paid to victims of residential school abuse under what's been called a fast-track program – yet as much as $34 million has been spent administering the program.
The figures are found in a government document tabled in the House of Commons last week.
Conservative MP Jim Prentice had asked the Liberal government for a breakdown of money spent through the Alternative Dispute Resolution program.
More than 13,000 former students at Indian residential schools have filed claims against Ottawa alleging sexual and physical abuse and loss of language and culture.
To speed up settlements, the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Department launched the ADR program in 2003.
Instead of suing the government and going through the courts, former students can submit their claims to adjudicators.
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At the time ADR was introduced, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said 45 per cent of the money would go to administration and the rest would be paid out in compensation.
But the figures provided by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan suggest a much larger percentage is not being paid to claimants.
From the beginning of the program in Nov. 3, 2003 to Feb. 28, 2005, ADR claim compensation was $934,740.
Total expenses, including money for research, operational costs, adjudicator costs, government lawyers, case manager costs, travel expenses and compensation totalled as much as $34.7 million.
However, the government says some of the research costs were non-ADR related, so the total expenses could theoretically be as low as $13 million.
The final result: money for claims represents three to seven per cent of the money spent.
Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, whose firm has handled thousands of residential school claims, says this is another example of aboriginal people being mistreated by the government.
"They carry on the pretense of being fair and in reality, they're not fair to anyone," he said.
However the man who runs the alternative claims process disagrees.
Ted Hughes says his adjudicators have approved claims totalling $7 million, although he can't say how much of that has actually been paid so far.
Hughes said the fast-track program is succeeding and in the months to come many more claimants will be signing up.
"The numbers are growing and I predict...it's on the verge of a take off," he said.