Chapter 8

The Healing Begins

The Healing Begins: Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the Residential School Settlement Agreement

In this module, you will begin to understand the efforts made to address the history of Indian Residential Schools as well as the ongoing awareness to bring this history to mainstream education.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) was established on March 31, 1998 by the federal government in response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) report. The AHF was an Aboriginal run foundation with an 11-year mandate and a budget of $350 million. They recieved an additional $40 million in the 2005 federal budget and $125 million from the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in 2007, which extended their operations until Sept. 30, 2014. The following was its mission statement:

Our mission is to provide resources which will promote reconciliation and encourage and support Aboriginal people and their communities in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical, sexual, mental, cultural, and spiritual abuses in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.(1)

What made the AHF unique among funding agencies was that they would only fund community based healing projects. During the 16 years of operation, they funded 1,345 grants, an estimated 204,564 participants in healing projects and 49,095 participants in training programs.(2) The projects included some of the following activities:

  • healing activities out on the land,
  • commemoration and gatherings of survivors,
  • counselling for survivors and families,
  • parenting skills workshops,
  • youth and Elders programming,
  • prevention of abuse, violence and addictions,
  • training of healers, and
  • healing circles.(2)

The Residential Schools operated in Canada for over 160 years and approximately 116 of those years with federal funding. In some cases, up to three generations of families attended a Residential School; the trauma is intergenerational. The AHF states that 10 years of sustained healing support is required for one survivor to heal from the effects, but many of the projects were funded for 3 years or less. In it's final annual report, the AHF acknowledges that many of the projects will have to discontinue their operations due to lack of funding.(2)

Although the AHF has closed its doors, their website is still active and their publications can still be accessed at the above link.

The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) is the result of a class action lawsuit by Indian residential school survivors against the government of Canada and the churches who ran the residential schools. The IRSSA was negotiated between the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), representatives of Canada and the churches in question. This agreement was an effort to address the thousands of ongoing claims against the government and the churches. This effort is a monetary compensation from Canada and the churches for the atrocities inflicted on thousands of children as well as healing funds to be set aside to deal with traumas and various other issues as a result of Indian residential schools. Further, as part of IRSSA, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created to bring the voice of Indian Residential School survivors forward and to create awareness to this terrible history of Canada.

There are 5 major sections to the Settlement Agreement that was signed in 2006:

1. Common Experience Payment (CEP): Any person who could be verified as having resided at a federally run Indian residential school in Canada, as well as other criteria, was entitled to this CEP. The amount of compensation was based on the number of years a particular former student resided at the residential schools: $10,000 for the first year attended (one night residing there to a full school year) plus $3,000 for every year resided thereafter.

The deadline date for submitting a claim was Sept 19, 2011. The total number of claims was 105,530. 97.8% of those claims were settled, and the average claim was $20,457.(3)

2. Independent Assessment Process (IAP): Claims involving physical and sexual abuse can be compensated up to $275,000. See http://bislaw.ca/indian-residential-school-claims/information-for-survivors/.

The critieria for abuse according to the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat is:

a. How bad was the abuse?
b. How much harm did it cause, then and later in life?

The adjudicators preside over the process to ensure claims go smoothly, as well as for support. Further, the secretariat is there to:

a. receive the claims
b. assesses them to see if they are eligible for the process
c. work with claimants and their lawyers to prepare claims for a hearing.

The deadline for submitting an IAP claim was Sept. 19, 2012. There were 38,099 claims recieved and to date, 97% have been resolved with the average claim paid out at $111,758 including legal costs of the claimant.(3)

3. Healing Initiatives: This includes the $125 million endowment to the AHF as well as other programs to support healing for survivors and their families such as the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program.

4. Commemorative Activities: This part of the agreement supported regional and national activities that honoured, educated, remembered and paid tribute to former Indian residential school (IRS) students, their families and their communities. The program was jointly managed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). $20 million was used to fund 144 commemorative events across Canada.

5. Truth and Reconciliation Commission: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established in 2008 and just released its final report on June 2015. The TRC was mandated to reveal the truth of the Residential School Legacy and to document the history through survivors' stories. During its 6 years of operations, the TRC collected over 6,750 statements from residential school survivors, family members and other witnesses. There were seven national gatherings, two regional gatherings and 77 community visits made by the Commission.(4) The housing of the information gathered will be held at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. See http://nctr.ca/map.php.

There are criticisms to this agreement in that it does not address the historic impacts of Indian Residential schools for those survivors who were impacted by their parents attending residentials schools with regard to loss of language and culture. The transmission and transference of Indigenous knowledge has been disrupted and this agreement does not begin to address these issues. Further, it does not begin to compensate the families whose children or siblings may have died in questionable circumstances while in the care of Indian Residential schools. As well, since the apology, further research has revealed medical experiments done that the settlement does not take into consideration nor does the apology. If fact, Canada has been criticized of withholding this critical piece of information that may impact the settlement of some survivors.

Ongoing education and awareness of the history of Indian Residential Schools is a collaborative effort to ensure the voices of those who died in Indian Residential Schools are heard as well as the survivors, this module is an effort to support the ongoing education.

Legacy of Hope

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(1). Aboriginal Healing Foundation. (n.d.). FAQs. Retrieved from: http://www.ahf.ca/faqs

(2). Aboriginal Healing Foundation. (1998-2014). The Aboriginal Healing Foundation 2014 Annual Report. Retrieved from: http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/2014-annual-report-english.pdf

(3). Government of Canada. (2017). Statistics on the Implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Retrieved from: http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1315320539682/1315320692192

(4). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Retrieved from: http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf

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