Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

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The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) is an agreement between the Government of Canada and approximately 86,000 Indigenous peoples in Canada who at some point were enrolled as children in the Canadian Indian residential school system, a system which was in place between 1879 and 1996.[1]:1 The IRSSA recognized the damage inflicted by the residential schools and established a $1.9-billion compensation package called CEP (Common Experience Payment) for all former IRS students.[2][3] The agreement, announced in 2006, was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.[1]:1 As of March 2016 a total of $1,622,422,106 has been paid to 79,309 former students.[4] An additional $3.174 billion has been paid out as of December 31, 2018, through IAPs (Independent Assessment Process) which are for damages suffered beyond the norm for the IRS.[5]

Indian residential schools[edit]

Indian residential schools were a network of "residential" (boarding) schools for Native Canadians (First Nations or "Indians"; Métis and Inuit). Funded by the Canadian government's Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and administered by Christian churches, predominantly the Roman Catholic Church in Canada (60%), but also the Anglican Church of Canada (30%), and the United Church of Canada (including its pre-1925 constituent church predecessors)(10%).[6] The policy was to remove children from the influence of their families and culture and assimilate them into the dominant Canadian culture.[7] Over the course of the system's existence, approximately 30% of native children, roughly some 150,000, were placed in residential schools nationally.[8]

History of the IRSSA[edit]

In November 1996 the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) issued its final 4,000-page report with 440 recommendations. Indian residential schools were the topic of one chapter.[2] In 1998 in response to the RCAP the Canadian federal government unveiled Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan,[9]:3 a "long-term, broad-based policy approach in response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which included the "Statement of Reconciliation: Learning from the Past," in which the "Government of Canada recognizes and apologizes to those who experienced physical and sexual abuse at Indian residential schools and acknowledges its role in the development and administration of residential schools."[10]

In 2001, the federal Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada was created to manage and resolve the large number of abuse claims filed by former students against the federal government. In 2004, an Assembly of First Nations Report on Canada’s Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools led to discussions to develop a holistic, fair and lasting resolution of the legacy of Indian Residential Schools.[11]

On 23 November 2005 the Canadian federal government announced the IRSSA compensation package.[2] It represents the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history. On 11 June 2008, Prime Minister Harper "apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada, and all Canadians, for the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their homes and communities to attend Indian residential schools. In this historic Apology, the Prime Minister recognized that there is no room in Canada for the attitudes that created the residential school system to prevail."[12]

Components of the IRSSA[edit]

The agreement was announced by the Canadian federal government on 8 May 2006 with implementation in September 2007. The five main components of the IRSSA are the Common Experience Payment (CEP), Independent Assessment Process (IAP), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Commemoration, and Health and Healing Services.[3]

Common Experience Payment (CEP)[edit]

The IRSSA offered former students blanket compensation through the Common Experience Payment (CEP) with an average lump-sum payment of $28,000. The CEP, a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, totaling $1.9 billion, was "part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian residential school legacy." Payments were higher for more serious cases of abuse.[1]:1[13] The CEP recognized "the experience of living at an Indian Residential School(s) and its impacts. All former students who resided at a recognized Indian Residential School(s) and were alive on May 30, 2005 were eligible for the CEP. This include[d] First Nations, Métis, and Inuit former students."[3] This initial payment for each person who attended a residential school amounted to $10,000 per person plus $3,000 per year.[2] The application deadline for CEP was 19 September 2011 with some exceptions made until September 19, 2012. By 31 December 2012, "a total of 105,540 applications were received under the common experience payment. $1.62 billion was paid to "78,750 recipients, representing 98% of the 80,000 estimated eligible former students."[4]

Independent Assessment Process[edit]

The IRSSA allotted $960 million to the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), "a settlement fund for claims of sexual abuses, serious physical abuse and other wrongful acts" at IRS which "provides money to those who experienced serious physical and/or sexual abuse at an Indian Residential School...The maximum payment is $275,000, but an additional $250,000 may be awarded for claims of actual income loss."[14] By 31 December 2012, over $1.7 billion in total was issued through the IAP. around three times more applications were received than expected, and the IAP is forecast to continue hearings until around 2017. By 2011 there were already 29,000 claims, double the 12,500 originally estimated by the IRSSA and this number was expected to rise even more. Violent abuse was "rampant, not isolated." According to Dan Ish, Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat chief adjudicator for the IAP, estimated in 2012 that IAP claims would be somewhere between two and three billion dollars more than anticipated.[15]

The fate of the records documenting over 38,000 IAP claims was placed in front of Canadian courts.[16] The Supreme Court of Canada decided that on September 19, 2027 all records generated through IAP will be destroyed unless the Survivor mentioned in the record indicates that they wish the record is preserved.[17] The Supreme Court decision indicated that IAP records can only be requested for preservation by Survivors. Family members are unable to ask for records to be saved, meaning that IAP records of people who have died since the time of their IAP claim and before this process was established, will not be saved.[18]

Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission[edit]

IRSSA allocated $60 million for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to document and preserve the experiences of survivors. The Commission was launched 2 June 2008.[19] On 20 October 2008, Justice Harry LaForme, Commission chair resigned, claiming "the commission was on the verge of paralysis and doomed to failure. He cited an "incurable problem" with the other two commissioners — Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley — who he said refused to accept his authority as chairman and were disrespectful."[13] On 15 October 2009 the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission was relaunched by then-Governor General Michaëlle Jean with Justice Murray Sinclair, an Ojibway-Canadian judge, First Nations lawyer, as the chair.[13][20] By August 2012, the federal government had released over 941,000 documents to the TRC related to residential schools.

Health and Healing Services[edit]

On 31 March 1998 in response to the RCAP and as part of Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan, the federal government established the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, "Aboriginal-managed, national, Ottawa-based, not-for-profit private corporation", with a $350 million-dollar grant and an eleven-year mandate from March 1998 to March 2009.[21] Its role was "to encourage and support, through research and funding contributions, community-based Aboriginal directed healing initiatives which address the legacy of physical and sexual abuse suffered in Canada’s Indian Residential School System, including inter-generational impacts."[21] In 2007 Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) received $125 million from the IRSSA to extend the AHF's lifespan to 30 September 2014.[3]

IRSSA also supported the Resolution Health Support Worker (RHSW) Program.

Commemoration Fund[edit]

The IRSSA allocated $20 million for the Commemoration Fund for national and community commemorative projects. This fund was managed by the TRC and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Legal representation[edit]

Crawford Class Action was the court-appointed administrator.[1]:1 $100-million was allocated by IRSSA for the payment of plaintiffs’ legal fees.[15]


Dan Ish, upon his retirement from his position as chief adjudicator of IAP, described challenges with private lawyers who allegedly illegally profited from IRSSA benefits. They investigated Winnipeg lawyer Howard Tennenhouse, Calgary lawyer David Blott and Vancouver lawyer Stephen Bronstein and numerous other lawyers. Ish "personally reported Tennenhouse to the Law Society of Manitoba, who eventually disbarred the veteran lawyer and repaid clients nearly a million dollars. A Vancouver judge barred Blott and others he worked with from further IAP work after claimants complained of wrongly being charged loans, fees, penalties and interest-something forbidden under the IAP. And just last month, the IRSAS requested an investigation into Bronstein but settled for a "review" of his practice and alleged connection with a paroled murderer doing IAP intake work."[22] In 2012 the Law Society of Manitoba disbarred Tennenhouse for life. He pleaded guilty to charges and agreed to pay back the "$950,000 in extra fees" he charged 55 former residential school students.[23][24] In 2014 as the Law Society of Alberta moved to disbar Calgary lawyer, David Blott "accused of misconduct in his handling of settlements awarded to survivors of residential school abuse", Blott resigned.[25] "Blott’s Calgary law firm handled almost 4,600 residential school claims"[25] and the "investigation into Blott’s action cost taxpayers $3.5 million."[22] Ivon Johnny, a convicted killer, had his parole revoked in January 2013 after "allegations he threatened and extorted...substantial sums of money from vulnerable and in some cases cognitively deficient [IRSSA] claimants. In February 2013 "B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown "ordered Bronstein to be interviewed by a court monitor about his alleged dealings with Johnny."[26]


  1. ^ a b c d "Personal Credits for Personal or Group Education Services" (PDF), Assembly of First Nations, 2014, retrieved 4 June 2015
  2. ^ a b c d "A timeline of residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission", CBC News, 16 May 2008, retrieved 4 June 2015
  3. ^ a b c d "The Indian residential schools settlement has been approved" (PDF), Residential School Settlement
  4. ^ a b Valcourt, Bernard (7 March 2013), "Bernard Valcourt at the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Committee", Open Parliament, retrieved 4 June 2015
  5. ^ "Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada". Statistics on the Implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Government of Canada. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-28. Retrieved 2016-06-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. May 2015.
  8. ^ "Residential School History: a Legacy of Shame" (PDF), Wabamo Centre for Aboriginal Health, Ottawa, ON, 1999, archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2015, retrieved 29 February 2016
  9. ^ DIAND (1997), Gathering Strength-Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan, Ottawa, Ontario: Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development/Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, ISBN 0-662-26427-4
  10. ^ "the Honourable Jane Stewart Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on the occasion of the unveiling of Gathering Strength — Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan", Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), Ottawa, Ontario, 7 January 1998, retrieved 4 June 2015
  11. ^ Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (n.d.). "Backgrounder" (PDF). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  12. ^ "Statement made in the House of Commons by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development", Government of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1 June 2015, retrieved 4 June 2015
  13. ^ a b c "GG relaunches Truth and Reconciliation Commission", CBC, 15 October 2015, retrieved 4 June 2015
  14. ^ "Independent Assessment Process (IAP)", Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, nd
  15. ^ a b Curry, Bill (18 November 2011), Cost to redress native residential school abuse set to pass $5-billion, Ottawa, Ontario: The Globe and Mail, retrieved 4 June 2015
  16. ^ "Former residential school students must act if they want claims records preserved, tribunal warns". Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  17. ^ "Former TRC chair encourages residential school survivors to save records - APTN NewsAPTN News". Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  18. ^ Eneas, Bryan (January 15, 2019). "Notification program for residential school records problematic, say interveners in case". CBC NEws. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  19. ^ "The Indian residential schools settlement has been approved. The healing continues" (PDF), Residential School Settlement, retrieved 29 February 2016
  20. ^ "Justice Murray Sinclair", University of Winnipeg, nd, retrieved 4 June 2015
  21. ^ a b "Aboriginal Healing Foundation Frequently Asked Questions", AHF, nd, retrieved 4 June 2015
  22. ^ a b Martens, Kathleen (11 March 2013), "Outgoing chief adjudicator criticizes lawyers in residential school compensation process", APTN News, retrieved 4 June 2015
  23. ^ Paul, Alexandra (22 February 2012), "Lawyer disbarred in fee grab: Agrees to repay residential school victims. Claims he's the real victim, not 'Indians'", Winnipeg Free Press, retrieved 4 June 2015
  24. ^ "Lawyer who fleeced residential school survivors now in Israel", APTN News, 23 February 2012, retrieved 4 June 2015
  25. ^ a b Graveland 2014.
  26. ^ Pemberton, Kim (26 February 2013), "Lawyer to hand over files on dealings with convicted killer in residential school compensation probe: Court investigates attorney's links to convicted killer who allegedly extorted money from claimants", Vancouver Sun, retrieved 4 June 2015

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