The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is looking to create a database of "Residential School Survivors," which includes some members of the St'át'imc community, says Xwsten counsellor Phyllis Peters.
After Peters attended an AFN-sanctioned meeting in Vancouver July 19-21, she held a meeting at Xwsten Aug. 11 to discuss the registration.
Dean Pelegrin of the T't'q'et Spiritual Centre held a similar meeting at T't'q'et the same day.
At the band meetings, Peters and Pelegrin discussed AFN's recently filed class action lawsuit against the federal government for "irreparable harm and damage" to First Nations' "culture, language, way of life, family, community, and social structures".
AFN's claim lists four groups of survivors: First Nations, Survivor, Deceased and Family Class. The survivor registration system, Peters said, would allow AFN to allocate money to people more quickly once the lawsuit is settled.
Peters noted that registration with the database is completely voluntary. A registration form is available from AFN's web site, www.afn.ca/residentialschools.
Forms can be mailed to:
Assembly of First Nations
Indian Residential Schools Unit
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 1002
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
The federal government has appointed former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to recommend a settlement package by Mar. 31, 2006.
AFN leader Phil Fontaine said he believes the lawsuit will speed up the process of resolution.
Peters told the News that AFN hopes to complete payment allocations by Dec. 31, 2010.
The figure suggested by Canadian Aboriginal leaders is a $10,000 lump sum for every survivor, with an additional $3,000 for each year spent at residential school.
The AFN database would record information including name, maiden name, date of attendance at residential school, and address.
The settlement package would be considered compensation for "loss of language and culture; emotional harm, loss of family life and parental guidance; neglect, denial of proper education, nutrition and health care; forced labour, spiritual abuse and growing up in a climate of fear, apprehension, and ascribed inferiority."
The class action suit would be considered separate from any physical or sexual abuse claims made by individuals.
"Some people at the meeting were asking if money would be available to help with (preserving) language and culture," Peters noted. "Either AFN or the (federal) government has to answer those types of questions."
About 100,000 children in Canada lived in residential schools, many of them against their will, until the 1970s, when most schools were closed.
The last residential school, located near Regina, was closed in 1996. AFN states that there are currently over 86,000 former students in Canada, averaging 57 years old.
Peters said is it not known how many members of the St'át'imc Nation attended the residential schools in this area.
"One of the things they said at the Vancouver conference was that we cannot pass the 'residential syndrome' onto another generation," she stated.
Peters has agreed to conduct informational meetings for other bands on her own time, and said Xwsten would host another meeting if it is considered necessary.
Records and personal information of students who attended residential school are also available to those students; an Informal Request form from the federal government can be obtained at www.irsr-rqpi.gc.ca.
For more information on the registration with AFN, or AFN's class action lawsuit, contact Phyllis Peters at the Xwsten Band Office, 256-7423.
Bridge River Lillooet News AUG 17th 2005.USLCES Home page.