As the government spokesperson in the article from Windspeaker's August 2003 edition entitled, "Settlement proposal called 'trick and spin'-Compensation cap concerns litigants," I would like to provide additional comments to the partial presentation of the government's Alternative Dispute Resolution to your readership.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is entirely voluntary. It is designed to save stress, administrative costs and time for the former students. It will not shortchange claimants on compensation. As well, we will ensure health supports are available for applicants throughout the process.
Had I been given the chance, I would have gladly explained that considerable consultation with former students, their lawyers, the churches and other government departments took place in developing all aspects of the resolution framework, including a new ADR option. I would have also described the involvement of the Aboriginal Working Caucus, which is made up of 12 former Indian residential school students from across Canada who take their responsibilities in guiding government on this sensitive and complex issue very seriously.
To suggest that they are involved in taking other former students down a less than desirable path is untrue. The Aboriginal Working Caucus continues to press for changes in the process and has made key recommendations to the government of Canada that will strengthen the alternative dispute resolution process for former students with valid claims of sexual and physical abuse.
One of the recommendations by the Aboriginal Working Caucus was to focus test the application form and the guide. Former students who have settled their claims, interpreters, counsellors, therapists and individuals with low-level literacy, were given an opportunity to review the documents and provide their feedback. The government postponed the launch of the alternative dispute resolution project from the spring until the fall 2003 in order to take the necessary time to fully assess what these individuals have told us. We are confident that people will see several significant changes as a result of these consultations.
Additional consultations took place with former residential school students, their lawyers and church representatives to develop the selection criteria and identified potential candidates for the Chief Adjudicator position. Regional interview committees made up of the Chief Adjudicator and members of the Aboriginal Working Caucus, the churches, plaintiffs' lawyers and government will interview the top candidates in each region for the adjudicator positions. The government only has one vote on each of these interview committees.
The government has been quite clear that it is not trying to save money with this process. The $736 million operational costs of the $1.69 billion seven-year budget include monies for health supports, commemoration, lawsuits and grants for residential school survivor organizations and events.
The government of Canada is investing the necessary time and money to ensure that former residential school students have a fast and safe option to resolve their residential school experience.
Director, Policy and Communications
Indian Residential Schools