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Compensation comes at too high a price: residential school survivors
Must write out painful accounts of abuse to get additional funds
Last Updated: Monday, May 12, 2008 | 1:18 PM AT Comments18Recommend14CBC News
Thousands of residential school survivors are eligible for up to $275,000 in additional compensation, but to get it, they have to relive painful memories of the abuses they suffered and back them up with written documents and witnesses.
"I don't think I can do it," says Sylvia Gould, a former student at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia.
"It's going to be hard. I tried for the last 10 years to write what happened to me at that residential school. I only get as far as my life before the residential school."
Gould, from Waycobah, tears up as she recalls the time she fell close to a coal pit.
"The pieces of coal were embedded in my knee, and I went to show the nun, and she slapped me. She said, 'get to school,'" said Gould.
Nearly 75,000 former students of residential schools around Canada have received a compensation cheque from the federal government, known as a common experience payment, for $10,000 plus $3,000 for each year they attended school.
To receive additional compensation for sexual abuse and serious incidents of physical abuse, applicants must go through the independent assessment process.
They can receive up to $275,000, but they must write a detailed account of what happened to them and back it up with documents and witnesses. They may also be called to appear before an adjudicator.
Lottie Johnson fears that may stop some people from proceeding.
"This may cause some people just to say, 'forget it, I don't want to go there,' and they may have a good case," said Johnson, a board member for Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School and a former student herself.
"I've told my story many times, and other people have listened to it, and it was alright," she said. "Now how do I prove it? There's no medical, physical records of these things happening. Most of the kids at the residential school, if you were beaten nobody took you to the doctor."
Johnson said the compensation process may be too fast for some people. She wants the federal government to give people more time to tell their stories.
A truth and reconciliation commission is set to start its work June 1. The commission is to compile a history of the residential school experience with anecdotes from former students across the country.