Indian Day School survivors get help accessing settlements of up to $200,000
MONTREAL -- While Indigenous people who attended federal Indian Day Schools won a class action settlement with the federal government last year, the process of accessing that settlement has not been easy. That's why on Thursday, a program took place to help them file their claims.
“It can certainly be a challenging process for people,” said Krystal Summers of the Federal Indian Day School Community Support Program, which was set up following the settlement.
On Thursday, survivors were invited to the Montreal Sheraton to come file their claims and share their experiences with the schools. The sessions will continue through Saturday, with two more to be held in Kahnawake on Monday and Tuesday.
“We are focused on (providing a) safe and supportive environment for community members to work on that claim form,” said Summers. “At our sessions, we bring in local elders, knowledge keepers, mental health and wellness workers on site to provide to community members as they go through the process, knowing it can be challenging for some people.”
Compensation ranges between $10,000 for those who suffered verbal or physical abuse to a maximum of $200,000 for repeated physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Louise Mayo of Kahnawake is one of 200,000 Indigenous children who attended one of the federally-run schools. She said that while she, unlike some other children, wasn't sexually abused during her time there, “during my tenure attending day school, I was strapped, I was sent to the office, it was a common experience we all experienced.”
“It shaped my future in the sense that I became very resilient. I decided I wanted to be someone and stand up for myself.”
Kahnawake stands second among all Canadian Indigenous communities in terms of how many children attended the day schools, with roughly 5,000. The community has launched its own support program to ensure everyone is heard, coordinated by Mayo.
“It's a start to reconciliation because now people are able to share stories,” she said. “For many people I visit, meet with, talk with, they've never told their children or wives what happened to them in school. They've kept it inside for years and years and years and, as a result, some people come to see me are pressed down so deep that after they discussed, they went through anxiety.”