Six Nations seeks extension to Indian Day School survivor’s filing deadline

SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER- Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) is taking the federal government to court seeking an extension to the Indian Day School survivors’ compensation January 2023 deadline saying  COVID-19 has derailed a chance for some survivors  to file.

SNEC announced today (March 2, 2023) it, along with survivor Audrey Hill, are in a case conference today  on procedural matters “which concerns a class action settlement intended to compensate survivors of systemic abuse at government-run schools for Indigenous children.”

SNEC and  Hill  filed statements claiming the compensation process, that ended on January 13, 2023, was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic .

SNEC and Hill are claiming “a significant number of survivors have not been able to make a claim before the deadline due to the lack of culturally sensitive supports and the unfairly short timeline.”

The original agreement called for class members to receive cultural sensitivity when filing to prevent being retraumatized and did not receive adequate notice and assistance completing claims in a claims period, they said was too short in light of a world wide pandemic hitting.

They are seeking an extension to “give class members a true opportunity to seek compensation,” to December 31, 2025.

SNEC and Hill said they asking the federal government “to do the right thing and extend the time for Indian Day School survivors to get compensation for the abuse and trauma they suffered.”

Elected Chief Mark Hill said they were disappointed and are seeking justice for IDS survivors.. “We cannot be silent as members of our communities are left uncompensated for the wrongs committed against them by Canada. IDS survivors must have a fair and meaningful opportunity to make a claim—that is what reconciliation requires.”

The federal government has not responded to the legal action.

The statement said the “COVID-19 pandemic hit almost immediately after the IDS claims process opened in January 2020 and had a massive impact on Indigenous communities like Six Nations.”

The action also says any information or assistance on the claims process was “largely provided online, but approximately two-thirds of households in Indigenous communities do not have access to high-speed internet.”

The action also cites barriers including a lack of culturally sensitive and trauma-informed supports.

“People who saw abuse at the day schools need to have support and time in order to engage with their memories and disclose the things that happened to them,” said Ms. Hill. “There was a 1-800 number for support and assistance but that is not a meaningful support for our people, many of whom went through unspeakable things. You can’t rush the process. There are people out there who are eligible for a claim but haven’t made one because they are not ready to talk about what happened to them.”

The statement said “to date, no extension to the claims process has been granted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite Canada’s agreement to extensions in other class action settlements such as the First Nations drinking water class action.”

“Indigenous leaders have been raising concerns and calling for an extension for over a year, ” said Elected Chief Hill. But, he added the federal government has not addressed the concerns.

“The government needs to move quickly to extend the claims process. It is long past time for mere acknowledgments and empty words about reconciliation. We need a systemic solution so no survivors are left out,” the statement said.

It’s the second challenge to  the class action settlement.  Another proceeding is before the Federal Court of Appeal,  in which survivors are seeking a declaration that they may amend claims that have already been made to be more fully compensated for their harms.

The federal government operated Indian Day Schools in First Nation communities that saw generations of children attend the schools during the day and return home daily.  The day school children suffered systemic emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the schools. IDS survivors reached a settlement agreement for compensation in 2019 that set a two and a half year claims period. Residential school survivors received a five year claims period.

The day school claims period began on January 13, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold.





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