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Council clarifies Indian Day School deadline

Today’s May 3 deadline is only for those wanting to forward their support or objection to the claim, and does not effect anyone’s desire to apply for compensation for abuses suffered under any Indian Day School. (Courtesy Mohawk Council of Kahnawake)

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake technicians Katsistohwi:io Jacco and Denis Diabo want the community to know that today is not the deadline to apply for the federal Indian Day School settlement.

“The May 3 deadline (today) relates to whether individuals want to send in a statement of support or objection to the settlement of this Indian Day School issue,” said Diabo. “People are getting the wrong information.”

The statement of support and objection forms are completely optional.

Compensation forms will not be available for a few months after the court approval (May 13-15), and once they become available, those eligible will have a year to apply, said Jacco. 

Anyone with questions can contact Jacco or Diabo at council to discuss the case at 450-632-7500.

“It’s not about compensation right now,” said Diabo. “You don’t need to do anything by May 3. May 3 is for the statement. If you want to do it, you can but it will not effect applying for compensation later.” 

The nation-wide class action lawsuit against Canada is an effort to compensate those who suffered harms or abuses while attending the federally-operated schools.

If you attended Indian Day School, you are entitled to compensation

This article was originally published in April 19, 2019 edition of The Eastern Door (vol. 28 no. 16)

Some are able to speak freely about abuse suffered while attending one of the almost dozen Indian Day Schools that operated in Kahnawake for over 100 years. Some, like one victim contacted, cannot.

“He was quite upset about it, and he said f$%k that. I don’t want anything to do with it. I’m not applying,” said Dennis Diabo, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake technician providing compensation claim forms and information about the upcoming federal court date, where a judge will decide whether to approve the proposed settlement of a nation-wide class action lawsuit against Canada for abuse suffered during the administration of day schools.

“He had a pretty rough time and he doesn’t even want to talk about it. He’s not interested in it (the claim) at all,” said Diabo.

Council met with Gowling WLG lawyers this week to get information about the May 13-15 court date that will determine if counsel agrees with the process and the settlement packages that result.

Forms are available at the MCK offices, online or at community-based services at the Business Complex with information on the status of the case and with papers that victims can fill in to apply for compensation.

“You’re letting them know that you are a former student,” said Diabo. “The form asks you which school you were in and what years, and your support for the settlement of this issue. If you agree or don’t agree, or if you object or you opt out. You have different things that you can tell the lawyers.”

The goal, Diabo said, is to determine whether there is general support for the claim. Lawyers will present the findings to the judge next month.

“After the court settles it, and assuming that the judge makes a positive decision, then, there’s going to be a different lawyer group (from Deloitte) that’s going to take care of the actual application of compensation,” said Diabo. “They will take care of receiving the application and making decisions on what level.”

Claims will range from $10,000 to $200,000 based on the severity of physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse students suffered at the schools.

More serious claims will require proof to justify the claim, though it is unclear what proof will be required at the moment, Diabo said. 

“They have the minimum level where it might have been verbal, maybe some hitting, hair pulling or stuff like that, all the way up to a level five, which is the serious sexual abuse and stuff like that,” said Diabo.

“Some people did experience sexual abuse. There are people that went to school here and did experience that,” said Diabo. 

Diabo added that families could make claims for victims who have passed away.

Council had hoped for a community presentation from the legal team, but a tight schedule meant the lawyers could only meet with council.

However, after the court hearing, the lawyers will return and deliver a presentation to the community.

Diabo knows that some will not be interested in the process, which is perfectly acceptable. 

 “There are going to be people who are not going to want to talk about this,” said Diabo. “They’re not going to want to re-live this.”

The team on the Indian Day School settlement, Diabo said, is keen not to repeat some of the issues that arose with the residential school settlement where victims were re-traumatized as a result of the process.

“They saw all that happen,” he said. “People were really upset and it brought up all sorts of bad memories, so they went through all that trauma again, so they were trying to find a way to minimize it in this process.”

Kahnawake included 11 Indian Day schools at various times from 1868 to 1988. 

“That tells me that pretty much everyone in Kahnawake went to one of these schools at one time because it was 120 years and where else would we go?” said Diabo, who himself went to Kateri School for seven years.

Schools often changed names, so depending on the year, the school may be the same building as another, but run by a different administration. Anyone can apply to have names recorded, and speak about abuse. 

Diabo and those handing the forms know that re-living abuse and trauma may be incredibly difficult for some. The stories Diabo and Katsistohkwiio Jacco have heard over the week have similar details.

“They all remember the name and what they did to them, and it seems to be pretty consistent, so it’s pretty hard to say this didn’t happen,” said Diabo. 

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