Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Survivor "Settlement"

Jarvis Googoo, a law student at Dalhousie posted the following at his blog, The Coco Banana, today. He has given me permission to reprint it here at Law Eh? I appreciated his candor and his first-hand take at this controversial topic:

Adam Letourneau blogged not too long ago about the Residential School settlement and the payments made out to the lawyers. I won’t reiterate what he wrote here because he did a good job himself. Rather, I want to yak about the actual payment a survivor is to receive.

First off, I must inform my readers that I and the people in my immediate family have been fortunate enough to have never attended a Residential School. Unfortunately, many from my reserve have.

Anyway, each survivor is to receive about $30,000 on average. In a way, I’m glad that a so-called “settlement” has finally been reached. It’s about time the survivors got some sort of compensation for what they were forced to go through.

However, as an Indian, I’m absolutely insulted that it’s an average of $30,000 per survivor. $30,000?!? What the hell is that? For years of physical, emotional, cultural, sexual, social, and spiritual abuse, this is an insult. For a lawyer, $30,000 is only about half/a quarter/a fraction of what a lawyer [probably] earns in a year. To many Canadians, $30,000 is what one may earn a year (perhaps a little more). So you mean to tell me that, for years of abuse, survivors are given a salary equivalent to one year? For losing the way your people used to live, $30,000 makes up for it? That’s pathetic! While some may feel the lawyer’s contingencies were ridiculous, perhaps settlements and payments need to be reformed so as to consider legal fees. Why should the lawyers be able to collect the settlement of the survivors? The federal government should’ve paid for the legal fees of the lawyers separately from the settlement. The $80 million itself should be divided amongst the survivors, and the feds should pay the lawyers of what would be their contingency fee of the $80 million (but not from the $80 million itself that goes to the survivors). This may sound awful, but how do you think a Residential School survivor feels about this?

Sadly, at the end of the day, perhaps the survivors felt as if they had to take what they can get. As time goes on, more and more survivors (like all humans) pass on. Perhaps they felt that they had to take what they could for now because they were not going to survive long enough to see anything else. $30,000 may sound like a little (it does to me for today’s living standards), but to a Residential School survivor (some of whom are living in poverty, just like many Aboriginal people), $30,000 may be just like a million dollars.

In all, looks like the federal government played a smart yet deceitful delay tactic with the survivors; the longer it waited to try and reach a negotiated settlement, the more likely that survivors would die off, allowing the federal government to pay out less than what it would have had to. Too bad, eh? My sister’s grandparents were both survivors. They passed on some years ago. They never lived to be “compensated” for what they had to go through, and what they had to lose, in order to become “civilized.” Where’s the justice in that? There’s none, and if you’re fortunate enough to make it this far, you get a messily $30,000.

$30,000 doesn’t last very long. But then again, many of the survivors are passing on, so perhaps it’s a “take what you can” thing. Smart move feds! If you were able to delay the settlement for a few more decades, perhaps all the survivors would’ve died, and thus, you wouldn’t have had to pay out anything!

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