SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER-Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) is fighting to give Indian Day School survivors more time to apply for compensation.
SNEC launched legal action against the Canadian government on December 21 over the class action Settlement Agreement that seeks to provide compensation for the systemic abuse suffered by First Nations children attending the government-run Indian Day Schools. They argue the deadline should be extended to December 30, 2025.
SNEC released a statement that said “class member Audrey Hill (Ms. Hill) assert that The Agreement’s timeline, notification and support process for survivors to seek compensation is unrealistically short, culturally insensitive and retraumatizing. In addition, the process took place almost entirely within the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It said survivors require more time to receive “a true opportunity to seek compensation,” Six Nations and Ms. Hill filed a Notice of Motion, arguing that The Agreement’s deadline should be extended to December 31, 2025.
“IDS survivors endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the day schools, and were separated from their culture and identity. Many IDS survivors continue to suffer from intergenerational trauma as a result of the abuse experienced in these schools,” Elected Chief Mark Hill said. “The class action settlement has favoured speed and cost efficiency over providing the trauma-informed and culturally appropriate assistance that our people needed.”
The Indian Day School claim process opened January 2020 and the pandemic hit the nation in March 2020 and survivors were subject to lockdowns.
The statement says “this exacerbated challenges with the short timeline and the plan for notifying and assisting class members, which needed to be done in-person given two-thirds of households in First Nations communities do not have access to high-speed internet.”
Since the pandemic began the statement says, about 28 community sessions were held in 26 communities, but 700 communities were affected by the systematic abuse that happened in Indian Day Schools. That means about four per cent of survivors were given the opportunity to meet with someone in-person before the deadline for applications for compensation.
“To this day, a significant number of class members have not yet made a claim because of limited claims assistance, a lack of cultural sensitivity and unfair timelines,” Audrey Hill said. “We know that trauma survivors are often only able to recall or disclose trauma in stages, and most importantly, with time. Because of the lack of reasonable and culturally sensitive assistance provided, I felt compelled to voluntarily assist others with their claims. It should not have come to this.”
The original class action lawsuit launched by survivors, proved that First Nations Children who survived suffered systematic abuse for many generations at day schools that were run by the Federal government for more than 100 years. In 2019 the federal government and survivors reached a settlement agreement and set a two-and-a-half-year period to apply for compensation. The claims period went from January 13, 2020 to Six Nations says that was arbitrary and it should be five years. Survivors can apply for an extension to January 13, 2023.
Six Nations statement says the agreement called for cultural sensitivity to minimize the risk of retraumatization for survivors when making a claim for compensation. They allege that sensitivity was not given and class action members did not receive adequate notice or assistance to complete their claims.
“The Government of Canada has ignored public statements from First Nations communities noting that their members will be unable to make a claim within the Claims Period,” Elected Chief Mark Hill said. “As Six Nations of the Grand River, we support other IDS actions and are watching closely to see the outcomes. It is disheartening that we now must file another motion with the courts to move towards reconciliation.”