Canada Looks to Fast-Track Native Abuse Claims

December 22, 2002 - 0:0
TORONTO -- Canada sought to fast-track compensation for aboriginals for decades of abuse at Indian residential schools, unveiling a plan to move thousands of claims out of the courts and into adjudication, hoping to heal the wounds of the past.

Ralph Goodale, the minister responsible for resolving the residential school issue, said the government faced more than 12,000 claims by former students, mostly for physical and sexual abuse, Reuters reported.

He said current claims would take 53 years to move through the court system at a cost of C$2.3 billion ($1.5 billion), a figure that does not include actual settlement costs.

But the creation of a new resolution framework, which would be managed through an application process followed by the validation of claims by an independent adjudicator, could resolve most of the claims in seven years, he said.

Tens of thousands of Indian children attended residential schools, most of them in western and northern Canada, from 1930 to 1996, when the last one was closed. Funded by the federal government, the schools were run by churches until the mid-1970s.

Most of the children in the schools were separated for years from their families in small native communities. The schools have been blamed for stripping Indian children of their native language and culture.

The government estimates that about 100 of the 130 residential schools could be involved in the claims, with about 90,000 former students alive today. so far 560 cases related to the schools issue have been settled and 12 court judgments made.

Reaction to the plan was mixed.