The IAP Story

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The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) was established to resolve claims of serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse suffered at Indian Residential Schools. The IAP provides former students with a claimant-centred alternative to pursuing the Government of Canada and the churches who administered residential schools through the court system.

The IAP was established under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.

The IAP is almost complete. 98% of the 38,000 claims received have been resolved.

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Staff from the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat participate in an Honour Ceremony performed by the Indian Residential Schools Survivor Society in Vancouver.

The IAP is managed by the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, under the direction of Chief Adjudicator Dan Shapiro. The Secretariat works in partnership with Indigenous organizations and Parties to the Settlement Agreement to ensure that the IAP meets the needs of claimants.

Although settling a claim in the IAP is much faster and significantly less complicated than resolving a claim though the courts, the process is still a complex legal procedure. Staff at the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat take claims through all the steps required for resolution. These include:

  • Receiving and reviewing applications, and admitting eligible claims.
  • Receiving and reviewing documents from claimants and alleged perpetrators;
  • Scheduling hearings and coordinating attendance by all participants, including the claimant, counsel, the adjudicator, Canada’s representative, elders, and support people.
  • Providing support to self-represented claimants to ensure they understand the process and are prepared for their hearings.
  • Managing hearing logistics and settling travel claims for all participants at hearings.
  • Arranging for expert medical and psychological assessments when needed.
  • Receiving and releasing adjudicator decisions.
  • Coordinating legal fee reviews.
  • Managing the review and re-review process.

The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat works to develop and maintain relationships with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders, partners and communities across Canada. This ensures strong relationships that focus on working together to support claimants.

These partnerships are fostered in various ways. These include contracts with individual First Nations, friendship centres, and other indigenous community organizations to conduct outreach and engagement activities under the IRSAS National Outreach Strategy. IRSAS also works with its partners to organize information sharing and consultation activities on various topics related to the IAP.

In addition to working directly with Indigenous communities, the IRSAS also works to increase awareness and understanding of the IAP and its role in the reconciliation process among Canadians through the IAP web site, media releases and other communications activities.

Partnerships with Indigenous organizations are critical to the success of the Independent Assessment Process. Secretariat staff work closely with a large number of partners and stakeholders on a range of issues, including:

  • Education and awareness about the IAP
  • Group IAP
  • Outreach on specific issues that may arise
  • Health support services provided by Health Canada
  • The IAP Final Report, a claimant-driven assessment of the IAP, which will also include input from many other stakeholders and partners.

Initially designed to resolve about 12,500 claims, the IAP received more than 38,000 applications by the application deadline of September 19, 2012.

More than 98% of all claims in the IAP have been resolved. Adjudicators have awarded over $2 billion in compensation to claimants in the IAP. In total, the Government of Canada has paid out more than $3 billion to resolve claims.

Close to 90% of IAP claimants whose claims went to a hearing or a negotiated settlement with Canada have received compensation under the IAP for the abuse they suffered at Indian Residential School.

The average amount of compensation awarded by adjudicators to claimants to date is over $91,000.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement set a goal of holding 2,500 hearings per year for the IAP. At the height of operations in 2012-13, the Secretariat held 4,193 hearings.

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Over 26,500 claimants have attended a hearing, where they were able to tell an independent adjudicator about the abuse they suffered at Residential School. In addition, more than 4,300 claimants received compensation under a negotiated settlement with the Government of Canada.

The Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat started with just a handful of staff and adjudicators in 2007. By 2013, more than 100 adjudicators presided over hearings, supported by a staff of over 225 employees.

Since its creation, the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat has conducted more than 400 outreach sessions to increase awareness and educate individuals and communities about the IAP.

By August 31, 2017, the Secretariat has released over 27,000 decisions. This includes decisions under the Alternate Dispute Resolution Process, which preceded the IAP, that were released after the IAP implementation date of September 19, 2007.

Under current projections, first claimant hearings should be concluded by 2018 and all claims under the IAP should be resolved by spring 2020.

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Click here for our most recent statistics on progress under the IAP

The Chief Adjudicator, working with staff at the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat and the IAP Oversight Committee, has developed a number of process improvements to clear backlogs and ensure that claims kept progressing towards resolution. Since 2007, more than 92 improvements have been introduced to speed up the resolution rate of the IAP caseload. Some of the more significant ones include:

Short Form decisions. Short Form decisions were introduced for standard track claims (claims that are not overly complex) in 2009, significantly reducing the amount of time claimants have to wait for their decisions. For these claims, claimants receive an oral decision immediately at the conclusion of their hearing. Written decisions follow in an average of 19 days, while claimants who receive a regular form decision have to wait an average of 288 days before a decision is released. Approximately 37% of all decisions in the IAP are short form decisions.

The collection of mandatory documents emerged as a significant bottleneck early in the IAP. Mandatory documents include medical and hospital records, worker’s compensation documents, records of incarceration, and employment and other records used to support IAP claims. By 2013, more than 8,000 claims were awaiting mandatory documents. The Secretariat worked with a number of agencies and government departments to speed up the production of these documents, significantly reducing the backlog of claims that could not proceed to a hearing.

The Adjudication Secretariat has successfully used a progressive search process known as the Lost Claimant Protocol to locate claimants whom claimant counsel and/or Secretariat are unable to make contact with, despite best efforts. To date the claims of over 500 former “lost claimants” have been re-engaged into the IAP.

The Incomplete File Resolution (IFR) Process, approved in 2014, involves adjudicators in the case management process on difficult files. The IFR was designed to ensure that claims keep moving towards a hearing, and gives adjudicators tools to resolve cases that had no reasonable possibility of moving to a hearing. The IFR includes safeguards at every stage to protect the rights of claimants. It also includes a mechanism to dismiss some claims where progress cannot be made. Over 435 claims have been returned to the regular stream for a hearing or referred to another targeted approach as a result of the IFR.

In 2013, the Secretariat introduced the Accelerated Hearing Process (AHP), to increase the number of hearings held each week. The AHP allowed the Secretariat to schedule hearings in cases that would not normally be ready to proceed. The AHP resulted in earlier hearing dates for many claimants, and preserved the testimony of claimants even though some mandatory documents may not have been available prior to hearings. Since December 2014, 30% of all hearings held used the Accelerated Hearing Process.

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Ceremonies and cultural items that make claimants feel at home are an important part of IAP hearings.

The IAP is a claimant-centred process that is fair, impartial and non-adversarial.

Hearings are held in a private setting, not in a courtroom. Claimants can choose the location of their hearing, within reason, and the gender of the adjudicator.

Hearings are culturally appropriate and feature traditional and ceremonial elements, depending on the claimant’s preference. Claimants can choose whether their hearing begins with a smudge, a song, a ceremony, or a prayer to respect their beliefs and traditions.

Hearings use the inquisitorial model, where only the adjudicators ask questions. Claimants are not cross examined by the defendants.

Claimants can take as much time as they need to tell the adjudicator about their experiences at residential school.

Claimants can choose how they take an oath at their hearing. They can take an oath on a Bible, on an Eagle Feather, or simply affirm that they will tell the truth.

Mental health and emotional support services are available to claimants from Health Canada’s Resolution Health Support Workers, who provide care before, during and after IAP hearings.

Claimants are supported at hearings by elders, support people, Resolution Health Support Workers and interpreters.

Claimants who do not hire a lawyer (self-represented claimants) are supported by a Claimant Support Officer. Claimant Support officers help self-represented claimants understand the process, assist them in collecting the documents they need, and work with others to prepare the claim for a hearing.

In the last three years, the Adjudication Secretariat has provided ongoing support to more than 1,400 self-represented claimants in preparation for hearings and mandatory document collection. The Secretariat also supported approximately 400 self-represented claimants in obtaining legal representation to resolve their claims. Of remaining in-progress files, about 40% are self-represented.

The IAP Toll-free Info line has received more than 88,000 calls since 2009. Trained operators are able to answer questions about the IAP, provide callers with updates on the status of their claim, and connect them with lawyers or Claimant Support Officers (for self-represented claimants). These services are available in English, French and Cree.

In addition, Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada maintain a toll-free crisis line that is available 24/7. Since 2009, more than 3,500 callers have used this free service, which is operated by trained Aboriginal crisis counselors.

In addition to direct compensation under the IAP, the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat also provides funding to claimants for ongoing care, healing and reconciliation.

In the last six years, Group IAP has invested over $4.5 million in 83 groups to support claimants in all regions of Canada on their healing journeys. Group IAP supports a variety of healing activities including canoe quests, equine therapy, healing and sharing circles, group counselling and cedar brushing ceremonies.

Almost 9 out of 10 claimants who received compensation after a hearing with an adjudicator also received funding of up to $15,000 for continuing care under the Future Care, which allows IAP claimants to seek additional compensation for treatment or counselling after their hearing is held.

Some claimants in the IAP have used have used the compensation they received to help their communities. Here are several examples.

  • In 2009, an 85-year-old man donated $40,000 from his residential school settlement to the Siloam Mission, an inner city shelter that provides clothing, and hope services to Winnipeg’s poor and homeless community.
  • In 2013, a once-homeless survivor of residential school donated $2,000 to the Sidedoor Youth Centre in Yellowknife after receiving compensation. He also donated $10,000 to the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation in the North West Territories capital, and $5,000 to Yellowknife's Salvation Army.
  • In 2017, a residential school survivor gave $10,000 from his residential school settlement to Shelter House, which provides basic needs, dignity and comfort to people living in poverty in Thunder Bay, and stimulates action to address the root causes of homelessness.