Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 10 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:35 a.m. to study the progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both chambers since the government's apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

[Translation]

Marcy Zlotnick, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as the clerk of the committee, it is my duty to inform you that the chair is absent. Senator St. Germain was supposed to be here this morning, but unfortunately he is ill and cannot travel.

[English]

Under the circumstances, I must preside over the election of an acting chair. I am ready to receive a motion to that effect.

Senator Hubley: I propose that Senator Larry Campbell will be the acting chair for this morning's meeting.

Ms. Zlotnick: Are there any other nominations? It is moved by the Honourable Senator Hubley that the Honourable Senator Campbell do take the chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Zlotnick: I declare the motion carried and I invite Senator Campbell to take the chair.

Senator Larry W. Campbell (Acting Chair) in the chair.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. I did not see any white smoke go up the chimney so I am not sure if this is legitimate or not.

Good morning. I would like to welcome all honourable senators, members of the public and all the viewers across the country who are watching these proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on CPAC or the web. My name is Larry Campbell. I am from British Columbia and I am the acting chair of this committee.

The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. Today we are meeting on an order of reference which asks us to examine and report on the progress made on the commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both chambers since the government's apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

In June 2008, Prime Minister Harper delivered a statement of apology on behalf of the Canadian government to survivors of Indian residential schools. In the apology, the Prime Minister stated that the entire policy of assimilation implemented by the residential schools program system was wrong and caused great harm. He committed to moving toward healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of residential schools and to the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. We will hear about this settlement agreement, negotiated in May 2006, when we hear the testimony this morning from our two panels of witnesses.

Before hearing from those testifying, please allow me to introduce the members of the committee who are present, beginning with Senator Patterson from Nunavut. Next is Senator Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick, Senator Brazeau from Quebec, Senator Greene Raine from British Columbia, Senator Demers from Quebec and last but not least, Senator Hubley from Prince Edward Island.

Honourable senators, please welcome from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair; Marie Wilson, Commissioner; and Chief Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner. Welcome to you all. Please proceed with your presentation which will be followed by questions from the senators. You have the floor.

The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Thank you for this opportunity to address this Senate committee concerning the apology that was issued by the government and all party leaders in the House of Commons in June 2008.

We have provided the committee with a copy of our presentation. We have been asked to allot a considerable amount of time for dialogue, and I assure senators that I do not intend to read our entire presentation at this time. It is there for your attention, and we encourage you to look over the contents.

I particularly would like to draw to your attention to two stories that came out of our national event. One story concerns a young man by the name of Patrick Etherington who walked 1,200 kilometres from Cochrane, Ontario, to speak to us about the issue of the children of survivors. His story is in the material we have presented to you.

There is also the story of the teacher who had worked with Edward Gamblin when he was a student in one of the residential schools. It is a story about her experience of reconciliation with regard to Edward. Senators can read that story in our presentation. Please pay special attention to that story.

As commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we have a few points that we think need to be made to you and through you to the rest of Canada. We have embarked upon a very significant journey in this country.

First, insofar as Aboriginal people in Canada are concerned, it is a fair statement to say that there is no Aboriginal person who has not been touched by the residential schools story. The legacy of residential schools in this country has touched every element of social life in Aboriginal Canada. Every issue in Aboriginal communities is connected in some way to the residential school experience and the impact that the residential schools have had upon the lives of Aboriginal people in this country.

The residential schools have had such a dramatic impact upon Aboriginal people in Canada that sometimes people believe it is an Aboriginal problem. It is not an Aboriginal problem. It is a problem that all people in Canada need to think about and address. In residential schools, Aboriginal people were told that their culture and language were not worth protecting. They were told that their customs had no value and were irrelevant to the future of this country. Honourable senators, non-Aboriginal school age children in this country heard the same message. Racism became a prevalent part of the residential school system and we must see that racism played a part in the public school systems of this country throughout the years as well. While Aboriginal people in residential schools were taught that they were inferior, in the same way, unconsciously, non-Aboriginal Canadians were taught that they were superior.

That image and that relationship have flawed the nature of the contact and the experience that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have had over the years. We need to understand that if the discussion about reconciliation is to have any merit, we must find a way to resolve that flawed relationship and establish a new sound relationship. That is the challenge that we face at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In the past year, since we have been appointed as commissioners, we have tried to address a number of things with regard to the work of the commission. The mandate of the commission is very large, and the amount money that we have been given to do the work is considerable, but, quite frankly, insufficient for the size of the mandate. Nonetheless, we are striving to complete all of the obligations that we have been given in a very short period of time.

We have a five-year mandate to address 150 years of stress in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country. Seven or eight generations of Aboriginal people went through the residential schools, and, as a result, there are enormous difficulties within Aboriginal Canada. We see social difficulties on a massive scale and children caught up in the child welfare system. We see Aboriginal people caught up in the criminal justice system and family dysfunction. We hear about domestic violence at historically high rates. Yet, at the same time, we see the Aboriginal population of this country growing in enormous ways, sometimes in some parts of the country eight to 10 times the birth rate and the growth rate of the rest of the country.

While the population of non-Aboriginal Canada is beginning to grow older, the average age in the Aboriginal population is much younger. We need to understand that we are looking at a different picture within Aboriginal Canada. Those young people are inheriting the legacy of the residential schools.

Patrick Etherington spoke to us about the feeling he had of being a survivor of a survivor. Those children will inherit the legacy of the residential schools, but more important, we must impose on those children the responsibility to try to address this in the future. This responsibility includes involving both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth. Senators, your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren will inherit this struggle. We must ask ourselves these questions: What will we do about it? What will we give them? What tools will we give them so that they will be able to address the issues that we face?

What is the problem? The problem is that the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country is not good, and we need to fix it. It is not just that there are social conditions that need addressing. It is not just that the average income is much lower. It is not just that the medical problems are more significant. It is not just that there are higher rates of incarceration. It is not just that there is a higher rate of children in the child welfare system. It is that, at this point, we have a poor relationship on a systemic basis. We do not know how to help each other or ourselves.

Within any relationship, respect is significant, but there must not just be mutual respect; there must also be self respect. In an address that we gave to the United Nations earlier this year, we pointed out that asking Aboriginal people to respect the institutions, government and people of this country, without, in turn, giving them the opportunity to develop their own self-respect so that they feel that they are relevant to this country, is to ask them to achieve the difficult, if not the impossible. The challenge we face is to allow Aboriginal youth to gain that self-respect by giving them access to understanding their history fully and completely. One of the roles we have is to explain that story, as well as to allow them to develop a full appreciation of who they are as Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal people and where they fit into this country.

The Aboriginal residential school policy tried to force assimilation upon Aboriginal people, and, to a certain extent, it succeeded. A large number of Aboriginal people have assimilated into Canada, but the vast majority have not. The vast majority of youth feel alienated and disassociated, and we need to figure out what to do about that and how to fix it. Part of the solution can be found in education. It was through the residential school experience that we got to this point in time, and we believe that it is through the educational system that we will start to provide answers for future generations.

We need to think about the solutions in a multi-generational approach. We need to understand that it took years to establish this problem of lack of identity and good relationships. We need to think of this as a long-term solution. We know that we will not accomplish reconciliation in our five-year mandate. We know that we can only begin the conversation, although establishing a conversation is very important.

In our prepared notes, we talk about some of the things that we have done to try to meet the mandate obligations imposed upon us under the settlement agreement. We talk about the activities that we have engaged in, the principles upon which we are moving forward and the great support that we are receiving from those participating in the settlement agreement.

The Government of Canada has been striving to help us to meet our mandate obligations. The parties among the churches have also worked hard to try to do two things — to help us meet our obligations and, at the same time, to fulfill their own responsibilities.

We have immense challenges to meet. We have many documents that we have to collect. We have to establish a national research centre. We have to gather the statements of all the survivors willing to talk to us. Those are grave challenges.

We have an obligation to hold seven national events. We held a successful national event in Winnipeg in June of this year, details of which you may read in our written notes. Our next event will be in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. I invite all of you to come to Inuvik, to show Aboriginal people and all of Canada that their future is very significant.

Things have to be done. Leadership has to be shown. You are part of that leadership of this country.

I thank you for the time you have given to us. I hope that the materials that we have provided to you give you a more complete picture of what we are trying to achieve at the commission. We understand that the committee wishes to have time for dialogue, so we will engage with you as you wish. However, honourable senators, I encourage to you look through the materials and look at the information that we have provided.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. Mr. Sinclair, I have looked at the map contained in your presentation. I must comment that I had no idea of the number of residential schools in Canada. I thought I was well versed in this subject, but had I no idea of the size of the problem. When I look at this map, it is mind-boggling.

You said you had seven major meetings. What happens at one of those meetings?

Mr. Sinclair: The national events have as their focus the opportunity to bring the parties together with survivors to allow a number of things to happen. One is to allow opportunities for survivors to engage in dialogue with each other, and to share their stories with the Canadian public through forums.

We utilize a sharing circle model at the national events to allow survivors to speak. With the number of survivors who showed up at our first national event, we found that trying to provide each person with enough time to share his or her story in the four days was very difficult and challenging. The commission is moving more to a community events hearing model where we are actually going into communities in order to record those stories to ensure that the survivors have an opportunity to speak to us.

At the national event we are called upon to provide opportunities for all parties to the settlement agreement, the government, the church representatives and the Aboriginal organizations, to engage in a dialogue about reconciliation and in particular, to lead the way on reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a conversation that is still in its early stages insofar as we are concerned. If you try to define "reconciliation," you can come up with literally dozens of definitions, but I think the reconciliation model that was chosen for the Residential School Settlement Agreement was a restorative justice model. That model talks about trying to put people back into a situation where their relationship can continue into the future in a positive way. It addresses past problems in a positive way to put the relationship back on a more sound footing. So with regard to the reconciliation initiatives that we invite the parties to talk about, we ask them to address it with that in mind.

We were quite surprised at the number of people who showed up at the first national event. We were hopeful that there would be significant numbers, but we were amazed to see an average of 10,000 people each day for four days. These people want to discuss the residential schools. We believe this is an indication of both the level of interest and the level of concern that this issue has for Aboriginal people. We estimate about one-half of them were survivors and the rest were members of the public who came to see what was going on.

The Acting Chair: I have just one more question. Do you have any idea the number of survivors?

Mr. Sinclair: Our information comes from the number of people who have applied for the Common Experience Payment, the number of people who claim that they attended a residential school. Keep in mind that the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that we are working with encompasses a specific number of residential schools and a specific type of student who attended those schools. They have to have been students who resided at the schools. A number of day school students who went to residential schools along with the residential school students do not qualify for compensation under the agreement because they did not live in the school. They may have lived in a nearby community.

At the time that the settlement agreement was reached, it is estimated that about 150,000 people were alive, and about 100,000 people have made claims for Common Experience Payments. Of those, about 75,000, approximately three quarters, have been approved for compensation for having attended a residential school.

I am not convinced that is the total number. I think there is probably a body of students who have declined to make a claim for compensation. We know there are some students who have not yet admitted to their family that they were residential school students, so I suspect the number is quite a bit higher.

Of course, if you take into account the day students and the students who attended residential schools who are not on the approved list of schools, the number goes up considerably higher again.

Senator Hubley: Welcome. We have great hope and expectations for the work you are doing. I hope the recording of the history will have a healing effect in and of itself. I certainly hope that the people who are able to tell their stories to you will feel this has been part of their healing process.

You mentioned education. So often committees look for the key, the one thing that will give people the opportunity to understand who they are and that will encourage the promotion of their culture. We are very focused on looking at education. Our committee now is doing a study on kindergarten to Grade 12 because we have found that problems started in early age.

How does the commission propose to construct a broader social understanding of the history and legacy of Indian residential schools?

Mr. Sinclair: I think it begins with the commission in terms of us doing the first part of our report, which is to ensure that the full and complete story of the residential school system is made known. A significant body of work has developed around the question of the residential school system. John Milloy's book A National Crime, Jim Miller's book Shingwauk's Vision and other books have contributed significantly to the academic and public understanding of the residential school story. Encouraging that kind of work is also important, so I think that we need to engage the artistic community to contribute to the understanding of this story. We make an effort to include them in the work we are doing at our national events as well as throughout our efforts.

We also have a research program and we are engaging researchers to address those areas of research that have not yet been addressed insofar as the residential school story is concerned and in particular to look at the question of models of reconciliation that might work.

I will invite Commissioner Littlechild to talk about the international focus we are taking because that is also an important tool. We feel it is very important for the commission to try to influence the provincial departments of education to look at two important elements, one of which is the curriculum content to ensure there are curriculum materials available to talk about the residential school story. We need to understand that to rely upon individual teachers to utilize the information in the classrooms is one thing and is a good step, but at the same time, when that teacher moves on, the next teacher may not pick up that challenge. We must include the information in the curriculum and make it a mandatory requirement. This information must be shared. We must ensure that all students receive this information.

We are also looking at the question of influencing and working with those companies that prepare the school textbook materials because we think textbook materials should include material about the residential schools story. We believe that students need to understand what the residential schools were all about and, more importantly, what is happening because of the settlement agreement. We believe that students need to learn about the ongoing progress.

Chief Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Thank you very much.

Chair, you said very important words that we have heard in some of our meetings when you said "I had no idea this happened in Canada." Those are really important words, and I thank you for saying them, and we will come back to why those words are so important in our work.

You also mentioned that the committee is studying and focusing on education and, as the chair said, therein lies a solution on education. However, if I may talk about a personal bias in your study, I would like to respectfully urge that when you look at education you look at it from a global context. By that I mean the critical importance of physical education and sport in the realm of education is often overlooked. I say that because in the work that we are doing, physical education and sport had a significant role in the success of education in the residential schools. Physical education is an important component of education and please do not leave it out of the curriculum.

To go to the question of international activity, we have encouraged a global dialogue on truth and reconciliation commissions generally. There have been many such commissions around the world, but the UN recently singled us out to say that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is a good a model of reconciliation and conflict resolution. There are eyes watching us as we go about this work in Canada and I am proud of that. They see there is the potential to do a lot of good through our work and I believe that as well.

Now to go back to your reading of the mandate of the committee, you are looking at the progress that has occurred since the apology. I was in the House of Commons and felt great pride when the Prime Minister gave the apology. Coincidentally, I quoted the same quote you referenced in your opening comments from the Prime Minister at the United Nations just last week, namely, that the policy of assimilation in our country has no place in Canada; that it did harm. Yes, it did a lot of harm.

What do we do with that? I have no idea. Now that we have an idea as a result of our work, what can we do to make a better Canada? That is the challenge we both have — you as senators and us as commissioners. I hope that we can move forward into the future working on that very important challenge.

Internationally, when you ask what has been the progress since the apology, I can give you one specific example from as recently as last week. In the United Nations there has been no progress with regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. How can Canada continue to deny that indigenous peoples have rights? How can we keep denying, as a country — at least as a government — that the Senate has passed a resolution to endorse the declaration. The House of Commons has passed a resolution to endorse the declaration and yet, two years after the adoption of the declaration at the UN General Assembly, there is no progress. Six months after the Speech from the Throne about looking for ways to endorse the declaration, there is still no progress.

In going forward, not only is education a solution but basic respect — respect of your decisions and respect of the other place, as they call it, the other chamber. Decisions have been made that we should move forward, together, on a positive solution. The framework for a solution is in front of us and we keep denying it and saying no.

Internationally, we have such a great opportunity not only to lead the country domestically but also internationally because eyes are watching the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The global community is saying this could be a model for conflict resolution. There is great interest in our work but we must show positive progress as well.

Marie Wilson, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Honourable senators, we feel that education is important in the formal schooling institutions and has great potential if implemented in all of our public institutions. That is especially so in the area of reconciliation because it is such a big word, it is so undefined and it has, therefore, many possible rich interpretations. The act of reconciliation creates many great opportunities.

Senators play a role as educators as this chamber commands a large audience. Individual senators are present in the communities where they speak to local residents. Senators have the possibility of making this part of the growing awareness of Canada about our history but also the invitation for our future.

In our mandate, we have the obligation to establish a national research centre. That will be a place where accessibility will be important and where it can be a living legacy so that we are not allowed to forget this part of our history; we are invited to continue unfolding it in a positive way.

We also have in our mandate obligations related to commemoration. At the community level, there are many hopes and expectations around what that would mean, but what would that mean and what could that mean at a national level? What kind of positive commemoration gestures could we consider as a country that will keep it front and centre in our minds in a reverent way so that it is never forgotten but is respected and so that we use it as a constant reminder of the kinds of relations that we need to establish.

In fact, we see this whole exercise as an opportunity to reconstitute ourselves as a country based on respectful relations. That is both a formal educational piece and an ongoing informal educational piece that we are all part of in all of our relationships in our work and in our everyday living.

Senator Stewart Olsen: This is enormously important work. I am happy to see some of the results — some I am not so thrilled with though.

On each of the events that you have held, when you are taking witness statements and have discussion with them, do you ask them how they see a way forward? I see that will be part of a public report. That is one of the most important things that I would like to see, namely, people's ideas of how to go forward — not mine or yours, but theirs, to see how we can overcome this.

I really like the commemoration centres. I believe that, much like the Holocaust remembrance, these horrific events should have commemoration and remembrance so that they do not happen again. I encourage that right across the country.

I see that many of the residential schools are in remote areas. How do we ensure that every native child is guaranteed an education? How do we move forward and guarantee that education?

Mr. Sinclair: The first part of your question was about what is it that we ask survivors to say on the issue of what we do about this.

Each of the statement gatherers assigned by the commission to interview survivors are asked at some point toward the end of the statement gathering process to put the question to the survivor, "now that you have told us your story, what would you like us to do about your story and about the issue of the residential schools?" Each of the survivors is invited to make a comment about what we need to do going forward.

Some of those comments have been reflective of the level of frustration that people have felt about their experience to date. There has not necessarily been a positive statement made insofar as each statement giver is concerned. However, some have been very insightful and considerate of the lives of others.

A common theme that comes from the survivors concerns the relationship with their families who lived with the legacy of their behaviour after their experience in residential schools. Survivors want the commission do something to help them with their relationship with their families because they do not want their families to continue to carry the burden of the residential school experience forward into their lives. Putting an end to that pain is very important to them. It is at a personal level that the discussion often focuses. There is a great deal that needs to be said about that.

We do know that there is a discussion. When we talk to youth who are "survivors of survivors," as Patrick referred to himself, they ask the question: What can we do about this? They tell us that although they did not attend the schools they live in an environment where the people around them are suffering because of the residential schools. These youth like Patrick want to know what the commission can do about that problem.

From time to time, we get into a discussion about the role that forgiveness plays in reconciliation. I am not persuaded that survivors themselves should have placed upon them the burden of deciding whether they can or should forgive the person who may have abused them or hurt them. However, I do think that survivors of survivors need to consider the possibility of whether they should engage in a conversation of forgiveness with their parents who went to residential schools. I think there is an element of need on the part of survivors to feel that their healing will include an element of forgiveness on the part of their families; I believe that is important.

On a global scale, the commission has decided to sponsor a series of forums in which we engage people who have thought about this question of reconciliation, about what we do about all of this, and have those forums as part of our national event so that there can be a public hearing and public involvement in the discussion. In discussing it in that way at that time, it would contribute to a refocusing of the experience of the survivors toward the future. I think that is important.

As far as the schooling at the community level is concerned, to a large extent, one of the things we need to understand is that there is a need for education to become a major focus for all Aboriginal leaders at the community level, but also for the message of the importance of education to be continually reinforced with young people. The dropout rates for Aboriginal youth in high school are still enormous. Part of it is just the difficulty of getting a high school education when you live in a remote community. You still must leave your community and go elsewhere, and that is a problem. We are looking at ways of ensuring that education can be brought to the communities where youth reside so they do not have to leave is important.

In addition, we also have to realistically look at the public school system and say that even when high school education and a complete education is available institutionally — to Aboriginal students in urban areas, for example — the dropout rates are still very high. Part of it, I think, goes directly to the fact that the education system continues to perpetuate some stereotypical information that is not consistent with the reality of Aboriginal youth and does not help Aboriginal youth at an important time in their lives, in their teenage years, to reinforce their identities.

I speak from experience and on behalf of many Aboriginal people who went through the public education system. Although I was very successful at it, at the same time, I constantly missed any information about who I was. I did not know where my people came from; I did not know what my history was; I did not know what my people's beliefs were or where we were going. I had no idea why I was here as an Aboriginal person. I did not know the fundamental teaching of the people in the community where I came from and therefore did not know who I was. I had an understanding of who other people thought I was but that is not the same thing.

I think the public school system is failing our children in that way. If we are going to concentrate on the first change that needs to be made, constructing schools in the community is part of it; but addressing the way schools are delivered and what is delivered in those schools is another thing. There is no sense putting a school up in a community if it is going to perpetuate the stereotypical teaching that has been historically wrong in the past.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for your comments.

Not to be argumentative, but I read with interest the mandate. I do not see anywhere in your mandate an international approach. I worry that you have a huge amount to do on a national basis. I think that after the reports and you have come to conclusions, then your energy could go into sharing. I think out of this will come an extremely important and good report that can be used in the global community.

I hope that energies, monies and funding are not being devoted to an international effort when we need every ounce of your energy focused on this particular initiative. This initiative is a hugely important part of moving forward, as far as I am concerned.

Mr. Sinclair: Thank you for sharing that, senator. We will take that into consideration as we go forward. I want to assure you, though, that our work is in Canada. We focus upon the survivors that are here. What we do is always with the perspective in mind that what we do must benefit Canadians.

The relationship that we have developed at the international level is constantly keeping in mind the fact that what we do must have a benefit here in Canada. We know that Canada works significantly at the international level, and we need to ensure that Canada and the image of Canada at the international level is also made known. Many people were not aware until we spoke to them at the United Nations, for example, about Canada's efforts with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We think that was a significant message that we took to the UN.

In response to that, we have now heard from other similarly placed groups in other countries who have pointed out that their efforts may be assisted by knowing what it is that we are doing, so we are communicating with them as well. However, we are not spending any time at the international level doing things that will not benefit us directly in the work we are doing here in Canada.

Senator Stewart Olsen: That is good because it is insidious after a while. Thank you very much.

Senator Brazeau: Welcome to all of you this morning. I am very pleased to have you here and hear a brief on the work that you have been doing. Obviously you have a huge mandate on your shoulders. I think a lot of Canadians are looking to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to be able to move forward.

There is no denying that the whole residential school system was probably the darkest mark in Canadian history. I do not think that anyone would deny that. If they do, they should do some reading and some research.

Having said that, one component of the mandate of the commission, as I understand it, is the truth aspect, which is collecting data and hearing from survivors themselves. I am assuming, as well, that this information will be documented somehow. There is then the reconciliation part in trying to find means and ways to improve the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in the spirit of moving forward.

Can you please elaborate if more weight is given to one than the other? Please tell us what you intend to do on the truth aspect after all the stories have been heard and the data collected? Is there a strategy? You talked about education, maybe rewriting history books, which is something I foresee because it is important. Could you answer the same question on the reconciliation part?

Obviously, I assume that you would want survivors, perhaps, to propose solutions as to how to improve the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. What focus is there on the reconciliation part?

Mr. Sinclair: Truth informs reconciliation, so they go hand in hand. We do not see that there is a separation between them. We are doing a great deal of work on the truth gathering process, always with the idea in mind about what it means for us down the road in terms of what we do about this. You are correct to point out that they go forward hand in hand.

Earlier, I mentioned that we ask the survivors to tell us specifically what they would like us to do about this, what they would like us to do with the information they give us and what they think we should do about this issue of residential schools and the legacy that they have inherited. There have been important discussions about reconciliation. For many survivors, as I think I pointed out, reconciliation to them is at a personal level, and they talk about reconciliation in the context of their families and their communities.

At an institutional level or on a systemic level, discussions about reconciliation will be the focus of larger discussions at a leadership level. Based upon the experience of our first national event, we are looking at the need for us to have a focused discussion or series of discussions at the national event.

We are also looking at forums throughout the term of the commission at various locations to which we invite people to come forward to address the question about what we do about this. We will engage the academic community to look at models of reconciliation that have worked and have not worked, and what we can learn from that is important. Ultimately, we need to ensure that we have opportunities to bring members of Canadian society together to talk to each other about this issue.

We instituted discussions between survivors and survivors of the Jewish Holocaust, for example, to learn about resilience and to learn about what survivors from the Holocaust can teach survivors in Canada. That is an important discussion.

As a commission, we are also considering issuing discussion papers on the question of what reconciliation can look like. We have begun sponsoring forums with elders, asking them to talk to us about what "reconciliation" means in their language and their teaching and where it comes from. We continue to ask the elders how they would establish a peaceful relationship between parties in a traditional way using ceremony and other traditional processes. We use a number of means to inform both the public and ourselves. Our obligation is to inform the public.

Our ambition as a commission is not to establish reconciliation by the end of our mandate. That is an unrealistic ambition. We have only the five-year term. Our ambition is to define it in a way that people can agree upon so that when we leave we leave a vehicle and a focus for discussion about reconciliation for the future.

We need to think about reconciliation as a long-term objective. I do not think we will find it easily because we need to recognize that there is a great deal of pain that is still out there and a great deal of frustration on both sides. A large segment of the Aboriginal population does not want to talk about re-establishing a positive relationship with Canada, and many Canadians do not accept that they need to be engaged in this issue. Getting those communities to come together is an important first step, but then we have to talk about what we want to achieve in the long term. If you know what you want to achieve, then everything is measured against it as you go forward. Just as when they established the schools, they had an ambition in mind as to what they wanted to achieve. They wanted to achieve assimilation, so everything that was done in the schools had to have that in mind. In the same way, when we discuss reconciliation, we must know what we want to achieve so that everything we do will have that goal in mind, whatever that might be.

Establishing that goal is an ambition that we have as a commission, but saying that we are there probably is not realistic.

At the same time, we need to show examples of reconciliation. We need to provide opportunities for parties or people to come together in a reconciliation process and show how it can work. We are identifying communities that have done reconciliation for themselves. We have talked about individuals such as Florence Kaefer, who was Edward Gamblin's teacher, and their reconciliation process. The reconciliation process between members of the same family is key.

As a commission, we have an obligation to show it, to talk about it and then to set the tone for the discussion.

Senator Raine: Thank you for being here. I will be brief because most of the questions have been answered by the others.

I was impressed during the 2010 Olympic Games with the involvement of the four host nations and also the opening ceremonies and the youth forum that took place. At that youth forum, they had over 500 young Aboriginals from across Canada presenting. It was amazing to see how intelligent and articulate these young leaders were. I am very excited by the future that is coming up in the First Nations and how it can assist Canada in moving forward.

How much effort will there be in educating non-native and especially new Canadians as they have no idea of this history? It will be important to develop that mutual respect.

Mr. Sinclair: The education of non-Aboriginal people in Canada is an important part of what we have to do as a commission. As I said earlier in my comments, one of the challenges we face is to ensure that all Canada understands that this is a Canadian problem; it is not an Aboriginal problem. Part of that will come through information sharing and through the efforts of leaders who are communicating that message to them.

We have been working with the various immigration programs at the provincial level to develop videos for new Canadians to see when they are getting ready to come to the various provinces. We just did one with Manitoba, for example, in which we talked to them about Aboriginal people generally, but also the residential school experience and the impact it has had. We are sharing information in that way as well. We are hopeful that people applying for citizenship and going through the immigration process will be given information about the state and the history of Aboriginal people that includes a story about residential schools. We are doing what we can to ensure that the information is shared. Addressing that and informing government about some of the priorities that need to be addressed are very important.

Chief Littlechild: The Olympic participation was actually one of the biggest acts of reconciliation, and I hate to say this, but it was an international arena. I do not think we can close our eyes to that. Last year was the International Year of Reconciliation. This year there is a move on a decade of reconciliation. Insidious as that might be, I do not think we can close our eyes to success of the Olympics in the international arena.

Senator Patterson: Witnesses, I thank you very much for being here and for your eloquent presentations. It is very inspiring to hear your goals to look beyond the survivors and their families. Your work is very important but it is very important to look beyond your five-year mandate and seek to achieve reconciliation within our country and particularly within our schools. That thinking ties in very well with our current study of education.

I have a very specific question about the statement gathering process. I know that this can be very traumatic for the survivors, especially if they are opening up for the first time. How is this working, particularly support for survivors, and have you been able to effectively engage the health and social services resources of provinces and territories not just for your national events but also for what you are doing in outreach to more remote communities?

Mr. Sinclair: We are obligated under the mandate to ensure that when we engage with survivors, particularly with the idea in mind of having them share their stories with us, that we have to have proper health supports in place. We must ensure that they know there may be a need for health supports and that any health support system they already have available to them will be engaged. At any of the events at which we speak or attend, we ensure that there are health support personnel available to the survivors who want to talk to us.

Health support people always accompany our statement gatherers during the interviews with survivors. We also want to ensure that there is follow-up on the part of the statement-gathering team to ensure that health supports are available to the individual back in his or her community after the interview. We take our obligations seriously.

Health Canada has put together a tremendous health support program that ensures that there are numerous health support people and cultural support people at each of our activities. Often, the best health support personnel are people engaged in local cultural teachings and traditions. These experts are present for each of the activities survivors are engaged in, and I think they deserve to be commended for their good work. They have worked very closely with us. One of their senior staff works literally for us full time, and it is important for us to have that close connection.

We also recognize that telling a traumatic story can be more damaging than helpful in some cases and that repeating it may not be helpful to an individual. What we have done in those cases, what we are trying to do because we have not successfully completed it yet, is to find out if his or her story has been recorded in some other way and then ask permission to see that recording. In that way, the individual does not have to retell the experience.

In particular, we know that all of the individuals who have claimed compensation for abuses that have occurred to them in the schools have had to go through the independent assessment process, IAP. They had to be interviewed, they had to make a statement and they had to testify in front of an adjudicator. A transcript is available of their statement. The statement is complete for our purposes, and so our plan is to get copies of those statements with the consent of the survivors and have them as part of our record. In that way, survivors will no longer have to go through the storytelling process about their experiences, which can be very painful.

We know some survivors are just not yet ready and may never be ready to share their experiences. They have not gone through the IAP, and there are still some individuals who will probably not go through the IAP.

The Acting Chair: I would like to thank all of the witnesses for coming today. We could continue this for many, many hours, and I wish we could. Unfortunately, we have more witnesses to hear. I know this will not be the last time that we meet as a committee and hear from you, and hopefully it will not be the last time that we as senators get involved with your very important and necessary tasks, so I thank you very much.

Mr. Sinclair: Thank you very much, sir, and on behalf of our commission, we would like to thank you for this opportunity. We look forward to future opportunities. We want to leave the message with you that the residential school experience has been Canada's great shame in the past, but we do believe sincerely that it can be a great source of pride for Canada, and we are working to try to make that happen.

The Acting Chair: Thank you so much.

Next we have representatives from three organizations. First, from the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Elizabeth Ford, Director; John Merritt, Senior Policy Analyst; Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council; and from the Assembly of First Nations, Charlene Belleau, Manager of the Indian Residential Schools Unit.

Clément Chartier, President, Métis National Council: Honourable senators, this is my fourth appearance in front of the Senate; twice in the Committee of the Whole, in the Senate chamber itself, and the second time before the committee. This, of course, followed the June 11, 2008 apology by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. That was a remarkable day. It was a day that the Metis nation embraced, not for us but for those Aboriginal peoples covered by the apology and by the settlement agreement. I must say that the small number of Metis who Indian residential schools are covered by the settlement agreement. However, as I mentioned on the three previous occasions, the vast majority of the Metis are not covered by that agreement and many of us attended Metis residential schools. Of course, to this date no government or church organization, has extended an apology, has accepted responsibility or even acknowledged that this situation did in fact take place.

The apology itself, though, because it was broad in nature in terms of never again will Canada enter into such a policy of assimilation and attack and undermine the very fabric of Aboriginal peoples and nations, was something of course that we embrace. We certainly believe that never again should that happen.

We are here today to look at what both houses have done since the apology. I do not have very much more to add than what I stated in June of 2009, other than we have been making some progress through the Métis Nation Protocol that we entered into in September 2008 with the federal government. We have a Metis-specific process in place, a distinctions-based approach where we are being dealt with as a people on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis as Minister Strahl articulated in various talks, including in the House of Commons.

We have engaged in a process with five of the provincial governments from Ontario westward, and I believe the session we had in Calgary in December of last year was successful and we will be having a follow-up meeting in January of next year, MEDS II, Metis Economic Development Symposium II. We have had some progress on the economic development side under the protocol.

In terms of addressing veterans' issues under the protocol, I also have to state that November of last year, at Juno Beach; we were able to unveil a memorial to the Metis veterans who served in World War II, many of whom landed at Juno Beach. Now there will be a permanent display to show the Metis contribution to world peace at that particular time, although we are still working at ensuring that Metis veterans receive the same benefits as other veterans, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, have received. Our people are still waiting patiently for a similar recognition apology from the Canadian government.

It is no different concerning the residential school system. We have not been dealt with and in March, I met with the Prime Minister, along with the other leaders, and raised the specific issue of the boarding school at Île-à-la-Crosse and the campaign commitment that the Conservatives made with respect to the outcome of the election and dealing with that particular school. The government has not lived up to that commitment. In any event, the Prime Minister has stated that he has been in contact with Premier Wall and they are looking at trying to find a resolution at least to that particular institution, but we are looking for more than that. Again, we look forward to seeing some movement on this file.

In terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, again, the Metis who attended Metis institutions — boarding schools, residential schools, whatever you want to call them — are not covered by the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because its mandate is basically to deal with those covered by the final settlement agreement.

Our board of governors met with the commissioners in January, and they do wish to hear our stories. We can understand why they want to do that; but on the other hand, as I mentioned to you the last time that I appeared before the Committee of the Whole, why would we want to go there when no government has taken responsibility or acknowledged what happened to us?

To have reconciliation, there has to be two parties. You cannot just have the Metis residential school survivors telling their story to an independent tribunal but not having someone on the other side to reconcile it. That is something that we feel is very critical and something we need to address.

Finally, as I say, this is the fourth time that I have appeared before the Senate, and our board of governors also appeared before the Senate in December of last year. I was not with them but they again brought our message forward. I had also written a letter to the Clerk of the Senate outlining the recommendations that we made to the Senate for action on our file.

I must say that I am relatively disappointed that the Senate has not taken too much action with respect to what we bring forward. I did get a letter from the Honourable Senator St. Germain April 28 of this year, again outlining what we put forward and saying that the Senate will communicate to Minister Strahl to review the issues raised. Senator St. Germain noted that because of the work the committee is currently involved in, the committee hopes that it may be in a position to review the recommendations more closely at a later date.

I received that letter several months ago and I am here today to hear what you have actually done in terms of addressing our recommendations. I will not make them again because that will be the fourth time or so. I would like to have some response. Otherwise, I would think there is not much point for us to keep coming back here to bring forward our issues because we need action. We do not just need a forum to come and lay out our recommendations and our grievances. With that, I thank you.

The Acting Chair: Thank you very much Mr. Chartier and I apologize for mispronouncing your name. I certainly should know better.

I can tell that you with regard to your issues and the recommendations, they certainly are not being ignored. One of the difficulties that every committee has is that we are involved in many different issues at any given time. Right now, we are heavily involved in looking at education and working toward some recommendations of how we can further that goal. Certainly, you should not think that we are ignoring what you have to say. What you have recommended to us will be looked at as soon as we get the opportunity.

As a committee, we could do a shotgun approach. However, when we do that and we look at many different issues, I think, speaking for the committee, we believe that we do not do justice to any one issue when we have it spread around.

I do not think you should take it as not concern on our part or that your issues are not important because that is not so. I know that I personally value very much your opinion and what you have to say and also the fact that you tend to have been ignored and marginalized. We recognize that. Please do not take that as a sign that this committee is ignoring your concerns.

Elizabeth Ford, Director, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Good morning. Thank you for the invitation to appear today. President Mary Simon sends her regrets.

Your invitation indicated that you would like to us to discuss progress on commitments contained in the Prime Minister's apology to former residential school students and their families. The main commitment of the apology had to do with the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The work of the TRC is vital to Inuit.

However, we continue to be unhappy about the exclusion of some Inuit from the post-apology process. For instance, Inuit in Labrador experienced the same trauma that Inuit in other parts of Canada experienced at residential schools, yet they are not part of the settlement agreement.

That said, we are pleased by the commission's recent progress and we are particularly happy that it has established the Inuit Sub-Commission. We also appreciate the efforts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC, to give focused attention to the North and convene one of its key events in Inuvik. We hope that more national events can be carried out in Inuit regions.

However, we are keenly aware that the TRC will require additional funds to carry out its work. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami invites parliamentarians to offer the TRC their full support, and we ask that all Canadians keep an open mind and an open heart when the time comes to act on the commission's concluding insights and suggestions.

We have chosen today to focus on education. Inuit are currently engaged in a process of deconstructing education systems left over from the residential school period and constructing new systems that reflect Inuit history, language and culture. Over the past 50 years, through education policies deemed to be well intentioned and now considered deeply flawed, our country has steadfastly accumulated an education deficit where Aboriginal peoples are concerned. We argue that this deficit requires a national stimulus plan.

A number of different measures — graduation rates, participation rates, performance testing — all reveal inequities in achievement between Inuit and non-Inuit students. For example, although the numbers vary from community to community, roughly three in four children who enter school in our regions will not complete Grade 12. We are Canada's youngest population and this growing demographic is making its way through the school system right now.

To put this into perspective, think back to the 1960s and 1970s, a real boom period for education in Canada. Baby boomers were just beginning to move through the education system, necessitating an expansion in schools and teacher colleges, and the introduction of progressive changes in the curriculum. This is where Inuit are today.

For the apology to truly have meaning for Inuit, we need your support and the support of the Government of Canada to bring such progressive changes to our communities. For the past two years, our organization has championed a national process to define the road ahead for Inuit education.

Decades of residential school policy has created a deficit in a number of key areas, most notably, the number of bilingual teachers in our schools, the curriculum and teaching resources needed to support bilingual education, and the development of Inuit scholars who can lead research and develop innovative practices.

The residential school experience has created other deficits as well, including a lack of trust and support from adults who had a poor experience with formal education and who do not value the system for their own children. Faced with dealing with administrators and teachers, or helping their children complete their homework, they feel inadequate. The cumulative effect is that in some communities, we have to rebuild trust in the system and make going to school common practice.

When I say that our education deficit needs a stimulus package, I mean that in addition to what provinces and territories are already doing to build education systems that reflect Inuit history, language and culture, we need an immediate investment in our education systems at all levels and by all players.

However, the tools of change may already exist to support a national stimulus plan for Inuit education. For instance, there are a number of national policy issues that have their genesis in the Arctic. These issues are of such significance that our federal government released a Northern Strategy in 2009, and just last month our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, issued a document on Canada's Arctic foreign policy. While both documents make reference to promoting social and economic development, the glaring gap in both documents is a discussion on improving educational outcomes for Inuit.

Our country operates on the fundamental premise that education provides citizens with the tools they need to participate in social and economic life. The level of educational attainment of our citizens directly influences the competitiveness and prosperity of our economy. If there are segments of the Canadian population in which educational attainment falls significantly below the national average, it is in the nation's interest and, in fact, it is in a moral imperative to direct effort and resources to changing these circumstances.

I hope you agree, and I call on parliamentarians and governments across this country to support us in our journey. Thank you for your attention.

Charlene Belleau, Manager, Indian Residential Schools Unit, Assembly of First Nations: On behalf of the National Chief, I would like to apologize as he could not make it to today's session.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide our perspective on the current implementation of the settlement agreement and thank the TRC for their previous report.

I will present some issues and concerns that are making it difficult for the survivors to engage in TRC and healing reconciliation because of the settlement agreement. I feel I need to go into the details of the some of the challenges we face.

The Assembly of First Nations represents the majority of former Indian residential school students, 80 per cent of the population, many of whom live in remote and isolated communities. We provided a deck prepared for the AFN Annual General Assembly in July, as well as a resolution by the chiefs and assembly. The resolution outlines various issues and concerns regarding the settlement agreement that must be addressed.

As you know, we are in the last 11 months of the agreement. The Common Experience Payment deadline is set for September 19, 2011. The deadline for the IAP claim process is September 19, 2012.

Today, we are reminded of the cautions addressed by a presiding judge for the agreement. We recall that the settlement agreement is a legal binding agreement, approved by the nine courts in Canada on March 21, 2007. It represents the largest class action in Canada. Ontario Superior Court Justice Winkler wrote the following in his decision:

In my view, the proposed compensation components of the settlement are fair and reasonable, if they are delivered in an expeditious manner consistent with the intention expressed in the settlement. However, I have concerns that there are aspects of the planned administration and implementation of the settlement that may have a deleterious impact on the benefit of the settlement to the class members. I am approving the settlement, subject to those concerns being satisfactorily addressed.

Today, we want to outline some of the current challenges we are facing related to the compensation components of the settlement agreement as the frustration in the compensation components, in our view, may prevent survivors going forward in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It may influence their willingness or unwillingness to accept the apology as presented by the Government of Canada.

In the Common Experience Payment, although service standards have improved recently, former residential school students and chiefs express many concerns. Approximately 21,000 applications were deemed ineligible for various reasons, with an additional 25,000 applicants that had applied for reconsideration, and approximately 1,400 residential schools that have not been recognized by INAC.

Further, former students may not be aware of the appeal process. Former residential school students do not have funds for lawyers for appeal processes. There is only reimbursement for appeals where appeals succeed. The courts themselves have not scheduled any appeals in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Aboriginal advocacy programs from INAC have decreased funding from $9 million to $3 million over the past two years, a period of time when former students have had the greatest need for advocacy.

With respect to the Independent Assessment Process for sexual abuse and serious physical and psychological abuse, there is a lack of knowledge by former students in the entire process, as well as the appeal process. The IAP secretariat outlined concerns regarding their capacity to deal with all of the claims within the deadline imposed by the settlement agreement and the courts. The adjudication secretariat in its 2009 annual report to the oversight committee reported a decrease in hearings from 4,000 to 3,000 annually for various reasons, including the claimant's counsel being unable to submit mandatory documents and greater demands for expert assessments in light of the lack of experts to provide those assessments.

The report also indicates challenges in staffing, procurement and information management, and identifies those as impacting the timely implementation of the IAP process.

They report receiving approximately 14,000 claims with approximately 2,900 hearings held, 2,000 decisions issued and awarding approximately $283 million, leaving a large number of claims yet to be processed.

The IAP process has a Person of Interest and Student on Student Abuse category that requires specific skill sets for resolution and health supports.

In terms of the national administration committee overseeing the settlement agreement, the objective was to have decisions on appeals that go forward in 135 days. Currently, on average, it is taking 415 days for the NAC to process appeals.

There have been approximately 3,000 appeals received with 1,400 in the process, leaving approximately 1,700 on hold in appeals.

In terms of health supports, we must look broadly at the overall goal and intents expressed so clearly and effectively in the June 11, 2008 apology. Survivors and all First Nations understood this as a commitment to reconciliation. The agreement is the first critical part, and we must take every step to ensure its successful implementation and completion. As noted, significant administrative concerns have hindered implementation, and, as such, the chiefs have called for an extension.

Moreover, First Nations feel that the agreement is only the first critical step. Reconciliation requires not just settlement but also healing and recovery. As in the apology, Canada made a commitment to join us on the journey to healing and reconciliation. INAC's own evaluation of the healing foundation recommended ongoing funding of the AHF and recognized the AHF as community-based and effective. Funding cuts have left a void that is not being fully addressed by Health Canada.

Health Canada received $95 million over six years. They were over budget by the time the allocation of $65.9 million was made in the 2010-11 Budget for a two-year time-frame. Again, that is inadequate to meet the needs of the former students and their families. Health supports are critical to the IAP, TRC and commemoration processes.

In terms of language and its impact, former IRS students identify the loss of language and culture as a major loss. In 2003, there was a federal government commitment to $160 million over 10 years to promote and develop Aboriginal languages. However, in 2006, this allocation was cut, and now the federal government allocates only $5 million a year to Aboriginal languages.

Language is critical to the survival of our cultures. We must see a stronger collective commitment to work with us to protect, preserve and teach our languages. We advocate for a declaration of linguistic and cultural freedoms as a tangible step forward directly tied to recovery and as a sign of reconciliation moving forward.

I want to thank the TRC and my colleagues for stressing the importance of education. Finally, just as the Indian residential schools were instruments of oppression in the past, today, First Nations leaders are committed to ensuring that education is a door to opportunity and hope for our young population. Intergenerational impacts of Indian residential schools are revealed in high dropout rates, lack of education and lack of training and employment opportunities.

AFN's call to action on education is grounded in a commitment to reconciliation and to turning the page on this dark chapter in our history.

In conclusion, in order for the settlement agreement to benefit the class members, we must meet not only the individual needs of the members but also the collective needs of our families and our communities for healing and reconciliation.

The AFN is seeking an extension to the settlement agreement to ensure that all former students that are eligible receive the benefits that they are entitled to. There is precedent in the Hepatitis C class action. Not only does this model take implementation of the agreement out of the government's control but the agency also provides assistance to potential claimants in that process.

The AFN proposes facilitation of an extensive final notice that is provided in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

We also propose access to health support services dealing with sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and psychological abuse. We support the restoration of $125 million for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to provide community-based healing strategies to the end of the settlement agreement.

We advocate for investment in our languages as a priority and a tangible step towards reconciliation. The fulfilment of the $160 million commitment removed in 2006 and legislated protection of First Nations' language rights are necessary.

Finally, on education, the AFN call to action is clear. First Nations leaders want an education guarantee for our children. This guarantee must be sustainable, equitable and provide stable funding for our schools. It means developing First Nations education systems. On an immediate basis, it means resolving critical gaps in the financing of schools to ensure safe, secure and healthy places for our children to learn. Let us work together to ensure that the legacy of the residential schools ensures healthy and safe learning environments and creates hope and opportunity as a result.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you for sharing your presentations with us this morning. I have a question for Ms. Belleau. You mentioned in your presentation the benefits that came out of the residential school settlement including $1.9 billion for the Common Experience Payments, $125 million for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, $60 million for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and $20 million for national and community commemorative projects. You also talked about some survivors not being able to participate fully in the exercise of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This settlement agreement was signed by many partners, so to speak. Do those barriers exist because a party is not upholding its end of the agreement?

Ms. Belleau: I will go more specifically to the health supports that we believe could be in place. We would like more access to health support funding. Currently, even if we look at the $65.9 million that is provided by Health Canada for health supports, that is the status quo. I listened with interest that the TRC has had their needs met, which is great, but that also takes away from the community health supports that are required.

For us, a barrier to moving towards healing and reconciliation preparing our community members and survivors for full participation in the TRC to fully realize the impact of the apology requires a lot of work in health supports. Right now, there are gaps in services that we need to address with additional resources.

Senator Brazeau: Is there anything that had been agreed to in the settlement agreement that is not being met today by the Government of Canada?

Ms. Belleau: In our view, when we look at current statistics, the Common Experience Payment has rolled out, but it is not without its challenges. If 20,000 people have been rejected from the process for various reasons, they are rejected by the process again with one party deciding that they are ineligible. Those individuals need to know that they can appeal that process.

It is the same with the reconsideration. Even if we have service standards that show us that, yes, we are responding to you not receiving your full compensation, that may be okay for Canada, but I am coming from another view that we have problems where the survivors are not happy with the answers they are getting from the Government of Canada.

Regarding the IAP, the reports and the information show where the uptake in that process has been greater and faster than anticipated. We are halfway through the process. They question whether they will be able to meet their obligations to complete that process within the time frame of the settlement agreement. In the compensation components for sure there are problems and challenges. In the other components of the TRC commemoration and health supports, for sure we need additional resources for the survivors to engage more in a safe way.

Senator Patterson: As you said at the opening, Mr. Chair, we are studying the progress made on the commitments made during this government's statement of apology. These updates on are important and welcome. Hopefully they will be reflected in our recommendations to the government.

I would like to focus in on the question of the Labrador Inuit. I understand that the government has been urged to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador that Labrador survivors who attended Indian residential schools could pursue a class action. Could you elaborate on what you recommend the government should do in response to this judgment? I presume your recommendation would an alternative to litigation.

John Merritt, Senior Policy Advisor, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: The students in question attended day school in Labrador as opposed to schools that might have been defined more narrowly as Indian residential schools in other parts of the country. The injustice that has been expressed by Labrador Inuit and organizations on their behalf is that those schools exposed the students to very much the same range of problems and in some cases abuse as was experienced by Inuit students in other parts of the country.

An ideal solution would extend the settlement to the Inuit students who attended comparable schools in Labrador.

I appreciate there would be probably be technical issues around trying to reopen the settlement with respect to the number of parties who had to sign on to that. The previous questions were in relation to that. We are not aware that any party would necessarily object to that kind of extension. Clearly one thing that other parties would be looking for would be for the Government of Canada and possibly the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to accept some additional responsibility and make the resources available to extend the same kind of settlement benefits to Labrador Inuit.

Senator Hubley: Welcome and thank you for your presentations. I have a question for Ms. Belleau that deals with the appeal process. You mentioned that many claims are being turned down and the appeal process appears difficult and lengthy and there are many applications on hold. Could you briefly tell us about the process for that appeal after an individual has given his or her story and has applied for the reconciliation package?

Ms. Belleau: The appeal process is not understood on various fronts and survivors do not have their legal interests protected in the settlement agreement. We look, for example, at the request to add some 1,400 schools to the settlement agreement. The National Administration Committee has denied those requests. The next step for the survivors at that point is to appeal those decisions. However, in order to appeal a decision probably requires a lawyer, and the survivors cannot afford lawyers to go forward to appeal to the courts in the settlement agreement. If they do go forward, they are reimbursed only if they succeed in those appeals. That is at the residential school level. I am concerned that an individual is unaware that there is an appeal process. Even if the individual has appealed, they may be in a situation with the National Administration Committee where the appeal process is taking a long time.

In the IAP process, I have heard survivors talk about the serious abuse claims. They would like to appeal how much their lawyers are charging them, but where do they find money for another lawyer to charge the lawyer? At the end of the day, their interests are not protected in various ways. Someone needs to advocate for those survivors so that they are not taken advantage of in the process.

With the settlement agreement, we need to be sure that the class is benefiting, not the lawyers or the government. There is a lot of work to be done to educate and to inform so that we are not infringing on those rights of the survivors as we go through the settlement agreement in the compensation components and other requests to add residential schools.

Senator Raine: I was somewhat surprised to see the amount of money that is going to lawyers in this whole process. When these lawyers are representing the survivors, are they being paid per case or by the hour? How does this work out? Is it a percentage? It looks to me like it is 40 per cent of the total.

Ms. Belleau: I do not want to respond for those lawyers. At the same time, for sure, the Independent Assessment Process limits the amount that lawyers can claim from the IAP process and caps those fees. If a survivor goes through the settlement agreement and disagrees with their lawyers, they have no recourse to deal with the lawyers.

Again, there is a cap. I am not sure if it is within the IAP, but they are actually trying to deal with cases where lawyers are attempting to charge more than the cap.

Senator Raine: I am sure every case is different but there is a common knowledge that you gain as a lawyer when you are going through these cases. If we are talking about thousands of cases, there should be some economies of scale and you should not just try to get the cap each time.

Ms. Belleau: They do, though, on every file. That raises another point. We have some lawyers who are taking on so many cases, but is that realistic and will they get through the settlement agreement to the end of that date and properly represent those people? There are challenges that way with lawyers. Again, they can answer for themselves. I just see the problems that we run into with the survivors who feel they are not being treated properly by lawyers.

Senator Raine: Do you have any proposed solution for this problem?

Ms. Belleau: I think the independent assessment adjudication secretariat tries to deal with the lawyers and the fees and the caps. I am sure the National Administration Committee also has appeals. A lot of that is not disclosed or transparent. It would be nice to be able to go to the National Administration Committee's website, or to other websites, to see what decisions are being made about those kinds of questions but there is no transparency.

Senator Raine: Maybe we should call the bar association to the committee.

Ms. Belleau: Call the parties to the Senate committee.

The Acting Chair: I will pass that recommendation on to the chair.

I would like to thank all the witnesses for coming here today. I do not know whether I am allowed to make a statement, too. In listening to everyone, — and I do not think I can ever be accused of being an apologist for the government — I believe we should recognize that this government, and in fact by unanimous decision of the house, did something that no other government has done: the government issued an apology. I cannot stress enough that you cannot overcome hundreds of years of devastation to a people overnight. There were start-up difficulties, of which we are all aware, with the commission. If you review what has taken place in the last 15 months by the commission, it is truly a remarkable record of going through difficult times, staying focused on where they are going and moving forward.

Senator Patterson: Hear, hear.

The Acting Chair: I admit, and I believe the commissioners admit, that there are many, many issues to be addressed. We could devote days here to listening to those issues. I think there must be recognition on all parts that not all of these issues will be solved. They will not be finished in that time. The commission has a number of years to fulfill its mandate. If you read their documentation, they have plans well laid out. I go back to what the justice said. We need to move forward with respect, we need to move forward with compassion and perhaps we need to move forward with patience. I know that "patience" is a difficult word when you have put up with what the First Nations have put up with in their history, but I believe that will be necessary.

Thank you all for coming here today.

Mr. Merritt: I want to clarify one aspect of my response to Senator Patterson.

A number of Inuit students attended residential school in Labrador, as well as day school; residential schools run by the provincial government.

The Acting Chair: If there is nothing further, we will adjourn.

(The committee adjourned.)


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