The deadline has passed for survivors of federal Indian day schools and federal day schools to apply for compensation in the class action settlement, though individuals can ask to be considered for a six-month extension.
The Matawa Chiefs Council, which represents nine First Nations in Ontario, said in a statement Wednesday, "We are relaying with deep concern and with 100 per cent certainty that — after 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time tonight — there will be potential claimants/class members from our communities who will not have been able to meet the deadline."
"We are continuing to receive reports that there are elders and other vulnerable people from our communities whom are still not understanding and/or not able to submit a claim."
On Tuesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) condemned the use of deadlines in what should be a delicate process.
"An extension for applications could greatly reduce stress, but instead, tomorrow's deadline will re-traumatize Indian Day School survivors," said acting Grand Chief Cornell McLean in a statement.
McLean added AMC was disappointed that neither Canada nor the claims administrator had considered its requests to extend the deadline.
In a statement Thursday, Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe of the Anishinabek Nation, which represents 39 First Nations in Ontario, called it "a failure" of class counsel and the federal government to address the concerns of survivors and their families.
"They not only deserved more time, but a more fair and transparent process overall, which would have alleviated some stress and trauma citizens have been experiencing," he said.
Extension requests reviewed by committee
The federal Indian day school and federal day school system was an attempt to assimilate Indigenous children, by removing them from their languages and culture. The institutions were often run by religious institutions and some students faced physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Nearly 700 Indian day schools operated across Canada between 1863 and 2000.
Under the class action settlement, survivors could file claims for compensation on a tiered system for harms suffered, from level one to level five, ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. Survivors making claims for levels two to five need to write a statement disclosing details of the abuse they suffered. The claims process opened in January 2020 and the deadline was July 13, 2022.
Extension requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by a committee appointed by the Federal Court.
Cam Cameron, class counsel lead for the settlement, said in emailed statement that counsel will monitor the number of extension requests and claim forms filed after July 13.
"If the influx of claim forms is relatively high/constant during the six-month extension period, then upon further analysis, and direction from the representative plaintiffs, we may seek Canada's consent to further extend the claims filing period beyond Jan. 13, 2023," he said.
Cameron said counsel is available to assist all applicants free of charge during the extension process.
So far, more than 150,000 claim forms have been filed, which exceeds estimates that there would be between 120,000 and 140,000 claims.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at Indian or federal day schools. Individuals can access immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention services at the Hope for Wellness helpline by calling 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.