Sisters Torn Apart By Sixties Scoop Reunited Decades Later

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Sonya Murray, centre, made it her mission to track down her long-lost sisters Nakuset, left, and Rose Mary, right. (Submitted by Nakuset)

Women among thousands of First Nations children removed from their families under federal program

CBC News Posted: Jul 04, 2016 / Last Updated: Jul 05, 2016

Sonya Murray and her sister Nakuset hadn’t heard from their youngest sister Rose Mary since she was around five years old.

The two older sisters were taken from their family home in Thompson, Man., one night as part of a federal government program that’s now known as the Sixties Scoop.

Decades after being forced apart along with thousands of other First Nations children and placed in adoptive homes across Canada, the two sisters were reunited with Rose Mary Monday on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Between the 1960s and 1985, the government estimates more than 11,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families – often without the parents’ consent –  and adopted out under the program.


Nakuset said Rose Mary was ‘the missing piece’ and the sisters now have to make up for lost time. (Radio-Canada)

Others contend that as many as 50,000 children were adopted out under the program.

“One night, there was a knock on the door. Nakuset and I were alone in the house. I kind of opened door… and apparently some police came in and took us away,” Sonya said.

Nakuset and Sonya were kept in the same foster home for a brief period before they were separated.

‘She’s gone… that’s all I ever heard’

Sonya, who was around five years old at the time, was the eldest of the three girls.

“One morning I woke up and I looked in the bed over from me and it was all made up, and [Nakuset] was gone,” she said.

“I asked, ‘Where’s my sister?’ and they just said, ‘She’s gone.’ That’s all I ever heard.”

Nakuset was adopted by a family in Montreal, where she still lives, and Sonya was later returned to live with her mother and stepfather. She now lives near Kenora, Ont.

The emotions of that time are still raw for Nakuset, especially when she considers the loss Sonya felt and the effort she made to find her little sisters.

“Sonya made it her mission to try to find both of us, and she’s really the one that keeps us all together.”

That effort paid off last week, when she received a message from Rose Mary on Facebook last week.

Nakuset teenager

Nakuset says she grew up yearning for her native roots. ‘I so desperately wanted to belong. ‘ (Submitted by Nakuset)

The youngest sister had moved to Vienna, Austria, with her European father when she was around three years old.

“There were no goodbyes,” Sonya said. “She was just gone one day.”

The sisters’ four brothers were also taken from their mother and placed in homes.

‘She was the last missing piece of the puzzle’

The message from Rose Mary, who now lives in Horn, Austria, came as a welcome shock to Sonya.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sure. My head was asking if this is real,” Sonya told CBC.

Since then, the three say they’ve been going “crazy” together, and they finally feel complete.

“In Austria, I used to feel lost and I never knew why,” Rose Mary said. “Now, my heart feels wide open and I’ve found new happiness.”

Rose Mary was “the missing piece,” Nakuset added, a feeling that was echoed by Sonya.

“You have a sense of emptiness, there’s always a feeling that you’re not full, you’re not complete,” she said.

“In meeting with my two sisters — now it’s ‘us’, not just me and you, like it was with Nakuset. It’s not just me and you against the world, it’s us against the world. We’re complete. She was the last missing piece of the puzzle.”

Nakuset said she can’t imagine the loneliness her youngest sister felt so far away.

“I think about how hard that must have been for her to be the only Cree in a country, you know, where there’s no one else who looks like her,” she said.

Nakuset said they’re now keen to get to Europe and teach their little little sister all about Cree culture and language. Rose Mary is already planning a visit to Canada next summer.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make up for lost time,” Nakuset said.

Better Cultural Training Needed For Foster Parents: Manitoba Children’s Advocate


WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s children’s advocate says the province’s beleaguered child-welfare system is struggling to meet the needs of children and should provide better cultural training for foster parents.

Darlene MacDonald released a report Wednesday aimed at improving support for indigenous youth, especially girls. Generations of indigenous people were torn from their families though residential schools and forced adoption known as the ’60s Scoop, the report said.

Manitoba can be at the forefront of the healing that must take place, MacDonald suggested.

“Manitoba has an opportunity to become a leader in how meaningful restructuring and root-cause investments can reshape and redress the abuses of the past,” the report says. “The provincial child-welfare system has been ineffective to a large degree at improving outcomes for indigenous children and youth.”

Manitoba has one of the highest apprehension rates in the country and seizes an average of one newborn baby a day. There are just over 10,000 children in care and 90 per cent of them are indigenous.

The report said foster families need to get cultural training and support so they can help their wards explore their own culture.

“This connection to culture is not only a protected right under international law, it is also strongly supported by research that the best outcomes for children in out-of-home care are correlated with strong cultural identity.”

Manitoba also has to look at providing supports closer to home, the report says. That means overhauling foster-care standards and regulations so more homes can be created outside the city. Square footage and occupancy requirements for urban homes should not “continue to be unfairly applied to rural locations.”

“Safe, temporary caregivers exist in communities throughout the province, but many do not qualify as foster-care providers because of the current regulations, which do not reflect an understanding of cultural diversity and community norms,” the report says.

“Safety must never be compromised, but much more can be done to develop safe foster homes around Manitoba so that children and youth in care have more options of staying close to home while services are being delivered to the family.”

The government should also hire more cultural workers and establish a “grandmothers advisory council” to give advice to various departments, especially those who deal with youth. The government should acknowledge the position of influence and wisdom female elders hold in indigenous culture, MacDonald’s report says.

The council, chosen in consultation with the indigenous community, would provide the government with “traditional parenting advice and guidance on the development and delivery of public services that impact children, youth, and families.”

“Our province and our country face an incredible time of opportunity. This is the time where we must honestly acknowledge the disgrace of how Canada’s indigenous people were treated at the hands of those who came here from away.”

The Canadian Press


Sask. Government Taking Over Child Welfare Programs From Saskatoon Tribal Council

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the Saskatoon Tribal Council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the Saskatoon Tribal Council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

The Canadian Press, June 14, 2016

“We’ve had over 200 kids die within the provincial system. And with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (system), we’ve had none,”

Effective today, the Ministry of Social Services is assuming responsibility for child welfare programs served by the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC).

The Saskatchewan government is taking back responsibility for the care of children from the Saskatoon Tribal Council Child and Family Services. Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the tribal council has repeatedly refused the ministry access to files for children it serves on reserve.

Harpauer says that means the government has no idea how many children are being cared for or what kind of care they’re receiving.

Harpauer said that means the government has no idea how many children are being cared for or what kind of care they’re receiving. She said the STC is not submitting monthly reports on children in its care, which is what 16 other First Nations agencies in Saskatchewan already do.

Harpauer said years of trying to negotiate a new deal between the province and the tribal council have reached an impasse and federal funding expired in March.

She said officials plan to go to the Saskatoon Tribal Council office on Wednesday to get the files and, if that doesn’t work, the province will have to go through the courts, adding this move will affect 50 to 100 children on-reserve.

STC Chief Felix Thomas said that the province has failed to negotiate in good faith since 2008, accusing officials of threatening to withhold money in an effort to dictate terms to the council.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas

Thomas said the STC agency is federally accredited and abides by guidelines for care that meet or exceed provincial ones.

He said he believes Tuesday’s move is part of an effort by the province to horn-in on the jurisdiction of band councils.

“They’re getting pushback on the jurisdictional side and they want to enact legislation in the fall, what I believe, on child and family services and jurisdiction on and off-reserve. And it’s something that certainly our chiefs don’t agree with, that they have jurisdiction on-reserve,” he said.

Thomas said the bands don’t trust the provincial child welfare system, citing hundreds of deaths reported over the years.

“We’ve had over 200 kids die within the provincial system. And with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (system), we’ve had none,” he said.

Thomas said he expected the issue to wind up in the courts if no resolution can be negotiated.

Harpauer said the province’s agreements with the STC which deal with caring for kids off-reserve will still stand, as officials have been able to access those files. She said the provincial takeover only applies to on-reserve care and that the province would work with other First Nations agencies to try and avoid unnecessarily moving kids out of their existing foster homes.

-With files from the Canadian Press

U.S. Army Open To Returning Remains Of American Indian Children Buried In Carlisle 

Buildings at the Carlisle War College that once were the Carlisle Indian School, March 22, 2016. James Robinson,

Buildings at the Carlisle War College that once were the Carlisle Indian School, March 22, 2016. James Robinson,

By Red Power Media, Staff | May 6, 2016

Nearly 200 American Indian children perished at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School

For more than 100 years, American Indian children have been buried at Carlisle, the school that sought to cleanse their “savage nature” by erasing their names, language, customs, religions, and family ties.

Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 American Indian children were housed at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the federal government’s flagship boarding school based on a strict military model.

The children were stripped of all tribal traditions. Their native names were changed to European names and they were forced to adopt the traditions of white America.

Nearly 200 of the children perished at the school, most from diseases like tuberculosis or consumption. Their remains were never returned to their families. The children’s final resting place is on the grounds of what used to be the boarding school and is now part of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.

American Indian children who died while attending the Carlisle Indian School are buried at this site on the Carlisle Barracks.

Grave-sites at Carlisle cemetery are often decorated by visitors with small stuffed animals, dreamcatchers and toys.

Now there’s a chance that some will be sent home to their tribes.

Patrick Hallinan, the head of Army cemeteries said in an interview that he’s open to meeting American Indian demands to repatriate children’s remains, provided talks on the matter prove fruitful and all regulations are met.

This marks a reversal for the Army, which in winter denied a Rosebud Sioux request to return 10 tribal children to South Dakota.

Now the Army confirms it will send two officials to Rosebud on May 10, to begin formal government-to-government consultations with the Sioux, the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming, and a third tribe that now seeks the return of its people, the Northern Cheyenne of Montana.

“I think things are going to happen,” said Russell Eagle Bear, the Rosebud historic-preservation officer. “I’m hoping they’re going to tell us they’re ready to work with us and let our relatives go.”

If that occurs, he said, an intended summer tribal pilgrimage to Carlisle could become an advance party to plan the return of Sioux remains.

The nearly 200 children that lie in the Carlisle cemetery were among thousands taken from native families in the West, spirited a thousand miles to the East, and forced through a wrenching experiment in assimilation.

Today many American Indians view what took place at Carlisle as genocide.

Chiricahua Apache children upon arrival at Carlisle Indian Industrial School

American Indian children upon arrival at Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

American Indian children four months after their arrival at Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

American Indian children four months after their arrival at Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Hallinan says, the decision to return remains from Carlisle to Rosebud or elsewhere, rests with him.

“If the tribes are interested and this is something they want to do, we would be supportive to see that accomplished,” Hallinan said. “We look forward to working with the tribes, and we think that once we sit down and consult with them, there should be a positive outcome for all involved.”

He plans to send staff to two American Indian conferences this year, to see if other tribes wish to discuss the status of their ancestors’ remains.

While the Army plans to send two people on May 10, dozens could attend from Indian nations. Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux, Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne River Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Standing Rock Sioux and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribes will meet on Tuesday, in Rosebud, South Dakota with representatives from the federal government and the U.S. Army to begin negotiations over the repatriation of the children’s remains.

All six tribes intend to have people there, and the Rosebud Sioux will bring lawyers, political leaders, and tribal staff. South Dakota’s senators and congresswoman will send representatives.

This month’s meeting in Rosebud could portend a major step forward on an issue that torments many native peoples. It comes amid an outpouring of interest and awareness that followed a March 20 story in the Inquirer.

Carlisle opened in 1879 as the first federal Indian boarding school, spawning a fleet of successors that embraced the motto, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

At Carlisle, children who spoke their native language could be beaten, while overcrowding and malnourishment weakened students, making them vulnerable to epidemics that swept the school.

Today many Indian researchers and activists refer to those who attended Carlisle and similar institutions as “boarding school survivors.” They say collective trauma and grief contributes to the devastating social ills that plague tribal communities.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School

Carlisle cemetery grave marked “Unknown.”

Officially the Carlisle cemetery contains 186 graves. Thirteen are marked “Unknown.” Many of the headstones bear names but no birth or death dates.

For approximately three decades beginning in the latter part of the 19th century, the federal government, in an effort to “tame the savage” and assimilate them into the dominant white culture, uprooted close to a million American Indian children from their reservation tribal homes, transporting them thousands of miles across the country to boarding schools.

Money Coming For First Nation Punished In 1885 Rebellion

The FSIN meets with reporters today as the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nations prepare for a compensation hearing next week. (CBC)

The FSIN meets with reporters today as the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations prepare for a compensation hearing next week. (CBC)

Posted: Apr 06, 2016

FSIN applauds efforts of Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nations

A Saskatchewan First Nation is getting ready to be compensated for actions taken by the federal government more than 130 years ago.

Today, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations publicly stated its support for the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. The community wants to receive compensation for actions taken by the federal government after the 1885 Riel Rebellion.

Last May, the Specific Claims Tribunal ruled that the Crown erred in not paying treaty annuities.

According to the FSIN, Beardy’s and Okemasis was among more than a dozen First Nations that were declared rebel bands and then punished by withholding annuities for every man, woman and child.

“These agreements are not merely simple promises, but rather they are binding treaties which are recognized not only in the courts, but also within administrative tribunals, such as this one,” said Beardy’s and Okemasis Chief Rick Gamble.

“The Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nations are delighted that our claim was validated, and look forward to the long-awaited resolution to this claim.”

The compensation hearing is scheduled for three days next week at the Wanuskewin Heritage Centre in Saskatoon.



Last Plains Indian War Chief Dies At Age 102

Ramona Medicine Crow

Ramona Medicine Crow

BILLINGS, Mont. – Joseph Medicine Crow, an acclaimed Native American historian and the last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe, has died. He was 102.

Medicine Crow died Sunday, Bullis Mortuary funeral home director Terry Bullis said. Services will be announced Monday, he said.

A member of the Crow Tribe’s Whistling Water clan, Medicine Crow was raised by his grandparents in a log house in a rural area of the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana.

His Crow name was “High Bird,” and he recalled listening as a child to stories about the Battle of Little Bighorn from those who were there, including his grandmother’s brother, White Man Runs Him, a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

The National Parks Service claims Medicine Crow was “the last living person with a direct oral history from a participant of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.”

His grandfather, Yellowtail, raised Medicine Crow to be a warrior. The training began when Medicine Crow was just 6 or 7, with a punishing physical regimen that included running barefoot in the snow to toughen the boy’s feet and spirit.

Medicine Crow in 1939 became the first of his tribe to receive a master’s degree, in anthropology. He served for decades as a Crow historian, cataloging his people’s nomadic history by collecting firsthand accounts of pre-reservation life from fellow tribal members.

“I always told people, when you meet Joe Medicine Crow, you’re shaking hands with the 19th century,” said Herman Viola, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Indians.

During World War II, Medicine Crow earned the title of war chief after performing a series of daring deeds. According to the Parks service, “in order to become a Chief of the Tribe, certain Crow Military requirements have to be met, consisting of four deeds: Touch or strike the first enemy fallen, whether alive or dead; To wrestle a weapon away from an enemy warrior; To enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse; To command a war party successfully.”

While in Europe, Medicine Crow completed these tasks, including stealing horses from an enemy encampment and hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier whose life Medicine Crow ultimately spared.

“Warfare was our highest art, but Plains Indian warfare was not about killing. It was about intelligence, leadership, and honor,” Medicine Crow wrote in his 2006 book “Counting Coup.”

Soon after returning from the European front, Medicine Crow was designated tribal historian by the Crow Tribal Council.

With his prodigious memory, Medicine Crow could accurately recall decades later the names, dates and exploits from the oral history he was exposed to as a child, Viola said. Those included tales told by four of the six Crow scouts who were at Custer’s side at Little Bighorn and who Medicine Crow knew personally.

Yet Medicine Crow also embraced the changes that came with the settling of the West, and he worked to bridge his people’s cultural traditions with the opportunities of modern society. His voice became familiar to many outside the region as the narrator for American Indian exhibits in major museums across the country.

“He really wanted to walk in both worlds, the white world and Indian world, and he knew education was a key to success,” said Viola, who first met Medicine Crow in 1972 and collaborated with him on several books.

Gov. Steve Bullock said Medicine Crow was an inspiration to his tribe and others.

“Joe was a Crow war chief, veteran, elder, historian, author, and educator. His legacy will forever serve as an inspiration for all Native Americans – and all Montanans,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said Medicine Crow was a good leader and the first member of the Crow Tribe to attain a master’s degree.

“Medicine Crow’s spirit, humility and life achievements leave a lasting imprint on Montana’s history,” Daines said.

President Barack Obama awarded Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

During the White House ceremony, Obama referred to Medicine Crow as “a good man, a ‘bacheitche’ in Crow.”

“(His) life reflects not only the warrior spirit of the Crow people, but America’s highest ideals,” Obama said.

He was nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal and was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Southern California and Montana’s Rocky Mountain College.

In 2015, CBS affiliate KTVQ reports Billings school officials named the new middle school in the Heights “Medicine Crow Middle School,” which is currently under construction on the corner of Bench Boulevard and Barret Road.

In the years leading to his death, Medicine Crow continued to live with his family in Lodge Grass. His wife died in 2009. Even after his hearing and eyesight faded, Medicine Crow continued to lecture into his 90s on the Battle of Little Bighorn and other major events in Crow history.

Residential School Survivors Stories Of Abuse Can Be Destroyed After 15 Years: Court

Residential School Survivor

Residential School Survivor

The Canadian Press, April 4, 2016

TORONTO — Survivors of Canada’s notorious residential school system have the right to see their stories archived if they wish, but their accounts must otherwise be destroyed in 15 years, Ontario’s top court ruled in a split decision Monday.

At issue are documents related to compensation claims made by as many as 30,000 survivors of Indian residential schools — many heart-rending accounts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

Compensation claimants never surrendered control of their stories, the Appeal Court said.

“Residential school survivors are free to disclose their own experiences, despite any claims that others may make with respect to confidentiality and privacy,” the court said.

The decision came in response to various appeals and cross-appeals of a ruling by Superior Court Justice Paul Perell in 2014 related to claims made under the confidential independent assessment process — or IAP — set up as part of an agreement that settled a class action against the government.

The federal government and Truth and Reconciliation Commission fought destruction of the documents, saying they should be kept — with appropriate safeguards — to preserve the historical record of residential schools. Catholic parties argued for their destruction.

“This is a once-and-for-all determination of the rights of all parties relating to these issues,” the court said. “There will be no future cases like this one.”

Writing for the Appeal Court majority, Chief Justice George Strathy decided Perell was reasonable to order the records kept for 15 years and then destroyed, unless claimants chose to have their own accounts archived.

Survivors who opted for confidentiality should not face a risk that their stories would be stored against their will in a government archive and possibly disclosed at some time, even far into the future, the Appeal Court said.

The court rejected the idea the documents were “government records” but said the material fell under the court’s control.

“It is critical to understand that the (independent assessment process) was not a federal government program,” the Appeal Court said.

“Although Canada’s administrative infrastructure was required to carry out the settlement, it was vital to ensure that the court, not Canada, was in control of the process.”

The Appeal Court did part ways with Perell on who should be responsible for a notice program that would allow claimants time to decide whether they wanted their records archived or destroyed. Perell had given the task to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Strathy called that unreasonable. Instead, the court ruled, the notice program should fall to the chief adjudicator of the claims process.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Robert Sharpe said the claims documents Canada has in its possession are indeed “government records” that should not be destroyed but turned over to Library and Archives Canada subject to normal privacy safeguards and rules.

The process was an “important moment in Canadian history when all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, confronted the shocking treatment of generations of aboriginal children in the residential school system and searched for ways to repair the damage,” Sharpe said.

“If the IAP documents are destroyed, we obliterate an important part of our effort to deal with a very dark moment in our history.”

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the church-run residential schools over much of the last century as part of government efforts to “take the Indian out of the child.” Many suffered horrific abuse.

Material collected by the truth commission, which also heard from thousands of survivors, are being housed at the National Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.

Part-Choctaw Girl Taken From Foster Home To Live With Blood Relatives In Utah


Part-Choctaw girl taken from Santa Clarita foster home.

By Red Power Media, Staff | Mar 21 2016

A part-Choctaw girl was removed from her foster home under the Indian Child Welfare Act to be sent to live with family in Utah.

The 6-year-old girl named Lexi, was taken by social workers, despite efforts by the foster family and supporters to try to block the move.

On Monday, under the watchful eye of various cell phone cameras, social workers arrived at the home of Rusty and Summer Page in Santa Clarita California, shortly before 3 p.m. to take Lexi, so she can be placed with Choctaw Nation blood relatives in Utah.

The move was taken under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted in the 1970s to help protect the interests of Native American children.

The Pages, who took in Lexi four years ago to live with them had been fighting the move, but last Friday, they lost their appeal to keep her. They say they want to adopt Lexi and say the girl considers them and their three children to be her family.

The Page family has made a plea to let Lexi stay with them at least until they can take the case to the California Supreme Court to file a stay of the removal order, which they planned on doing Monday.

Lexi was supposed to be taken away on Sunday, but Department of Children and Family Services agents postponed the meeting after a large group of supporters crowded the neighborhood to stand against her removal.

Dozens of people remained in a Santa Clarita neighborhood tonight to demonstrate against authorities' plans to take a 6-year-old girl from her foster family's custody and place her with Choctaw Nation blood relatives who live in Utah.

Dozens of people demonstrate against authorities’ plans to take a 6-year-old girl from her foster family’s custody and place her with Choctaw Nation blood relatives who live in Utah.

In a statement, a court appointed attorney for Lexi said, “Her family in Utah have been waiting to receive her for over 3 years, during that time they have traveled to California monthly and she has visited their home as well.

“The injustice here is not that she is leaving California but rather that her foster parents pursued litigation which prevented her from joining her family sooner.”

In another statement, the Choctaw Nation said it wants what is best for Lexi.

“The Choctaw Nation desires the best for this Choctaw child. The tribe’s values of faith, family and culture are what makes our tribal identity so important to us. Therefore we will continue to work to maintain these values and work toward the long-term best interest of this child,” it said.

Ottawa Used Technicality To Disqualify 1,000 Residential-School Claims

A group of students and a nun pose in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, Manitoba in February, 1940. (HANDOUT/REUTERS)

A group of students and a nun pose in a classroom at Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Cross Lake, Manitoba in February, 1940. (HANDOUT/REUTERS)

The Globe and Mail, Feb. 02, 2016

The federal government used a technical argument to disqualify an estimated 1,000 claims for compensation made by indigenous Canadians who were abused at Indian residential schools listed in the agreement negotiated to award them for their suffering.

It is a move that the people who signed the deal on behalf of former students denounce as a cash-saving measure by Ottawa – one that has created unequal restitution for survivors, depending upon the date they filed their claims and the location on the school grounds where the assaults occurred.

“The government should reverse this unfair decision and agree to pay compensation to these people,” said Phil Fontaine, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who is himself a residential-school survivor and who launched the efforts to obtain redress.

Residential schools, which were varying combinations of boarding facilities and educational institutions, were established in the 1800s and run by churches. Ottawa made attendance compulsory for indigenous children in a massive program aimed at assimilation.

Faced with complaints during the 1950s and 60s about the quality of education being delivered, the federal government took over the operation of about 58 of the actual schools, leaving only the residences under the control of the religious orders. This is known as the “administrative split.”

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement between the government, the churches and the school survivors was implemented in 2007. Many of those who were abused gave up their right to sue the government in return for being able to participate in the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which was created, as part of that agreement, to determine how much compensation they deserved. For three years, the issue of the administrative split was not raised at IAP hearings.

Then, in late 2010, Justice Department lawyers began arguing that schools listed in the settlement agreement ceased to be residential schools at the time the administrative split took place – and that any student who was abused after that point should be disqualified from receiving compensation unless the abuse occurred within the church-run residences. If a child was sexually or physically abused in a classroom, in a gym, or on a playground, the government lawyers argued, he or she should not receive payment for his or her suffering.

While some IAP adjudicators vehemently disagreed with the government’s position, others started dismissing claims based on the administrative split. Those that were denied were returned to Daniel Shapiro, the chief adjudicator of the IAP, for review, and they sat there, some for several years, without resolution.

In April of last year, Rosemary Nation, a judge of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, tossed out the appeal of a woman whose case had been rejected by the IAP on the basis of the administrative split. The unidentified claimant had attended the Grouard school, on the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake, and her arm had been broken by a nun some time after 1957 when responsibility for the school was handed from the federal government to the province, which occurred in a handful of the roughly 58 cases.

Justice Nation determined that Grouard was not a residential school when the abuse took place. And she agreed with the government – over the objections of the claimant and her lawyers – that adjudicators had the right to determine what was, and what was not, a residential school.

Once that decision was rendered, Mr. Shapiro dismissed the other claims affected by the administrative split – a number he estimated in 2014 would exceed 1,000.

That means the end of a compensation claim for people such as Murphy Powderface, who was molested by a teacher at the Morley school in Alberta in the 1960s. “After I got denied again, I got more depressed,” said Mr. Powderface, who said he has made several suicide attempts as a result of the abuse. “It still affects me.”

Mr. Shapiro said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail that his adjudicators are bound by the Alberta decision.

“Our adjudicators are independent from Canada and other parties in the [agreement], and are very diligent in assessing all of the submissions and evidence brought before them in hearings under the IAP,” wrote Mr. Shapiro. “I believe that all claims are dealt with in a fair and impartial manner.”

Still, chiefs who attended a special assembly in Gatineau, Que., in December asked Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the AFN, to call a meeting of the parties to the settlement agreement to “deal with the injustice being perpetrated against survivors affected by the illegitimate actions of the office of the chief adjudicator.”

Charlie Angus, the NDP critic for indigenous affairs, said the Independent Assessment Process is the only legal process he has heard of that was set up and administered by the defendant. “The IAP has opted to side with weasel words from government lawyers over abiding by the spirit and promise of the residential-school apology,” said Mr. Angus. “This is a travesty.”

Kathleen Mahoney, who represented the AFN during the settlement talks, said she and her fellow negotiators never intended to give IAP adjudicators the power to decide what constitutes a residential school. The eligible institutions are all spelled out in the settlement agreement, she said, and although there is a provision that allows schools to be added to the list, there is none that allows them to be taken away.

Nor did the government negotiators raise the issue of the administrative split at the time the agreement was being written, said Ms. Mahoney. “Arguably, they had that opportunity, but they would have been laughed out of the room.”

Ms. Mahoney says the unfairness of the administrative-split decision is evident on many levels.

In families where two members were abused by the same person in the same way, one has been compensated because he or she filed his or her claim before 2010, while the other, who filed his or her claim later, has received nothing, she said. And “if one was assaulted in the residence, they would get compensated. But if the other was assaulted in the classroom – same abuser, same type of abuse, same time period – they are out of luck.”

Common-experience payments, which are awarded to any former student of a residential school, regardless of whether abuse occurred, are still being paid to people whose claims under the IAP have been denied because of the administrative split – so the institutions are considered residential schools for one purpose but not the other, said Ms. Mahoney.

In addition, she said, even though Mr. Shapiro used the Grouard decision to justify throwing out all of the other claims affected by the administrative split, “Grouard is quite different on its facts” from the other cases. While Grouard was handed over to the province, most of the other schools that were split from the church-run residences continued to be run by the federal government.

Throwing out all of the administrative-split cases, said Ms. Mahoney, “does undermine and contradict the agreement, which is a massive investment in reconciliation.”

Rod Soosay, a social worker at the Samson Cree First Nation who helps abuse claimants with their applications, said he has worked with many people who have had their IAP claims denied because of the administrative split.

“One lady I am dealing with right now had her IAP hearing and totally believed she would get something. She was devastated,” said Mr. Soosay. The government, he said, “are a bunch of hypocrites. It’s like apologizing in advance for slapping you in the face.”

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Indian Residential Schools: 5,300 Alleged Abusers Located By Ottawa

The federal government has located thousands of people accused of physically and sexually abusing students at Canada's Indian residential schools. (Edmund Metatawabin collection/Algoma University)

The federal government has located thousands of people accused of physically and sexually abusing students at Canada’s Indian residential schools. (Edmund Metatawabin collection/Algoma University)

17 private investigation contracted by government, at a cost of over $1.5M, to help settle abuse claims

Investigators hired by the federal government have located thousands of people accused of physically and sexually abusing students at Canada’s Indian residential schools — though they may never face criminal charges.

As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement agreement, the government located 5,315 alleged abusers, both former employees and students.

Seventeen private investigation firms were contracted, at a cost of $1,576,380, beginning in 2005, according to information provided by Indigenous and North Affairs Canada (INAC).

The alleged perpetrators, however, weren’t tracked down to face criminal charges — it was see if they would be willing to participate in hearings to determine compensation for residential school survivors. The Independent Assessment Process (IAP), not involving the courts, was set up to resolve the most severe abuse claims.

“There’s not a lot in it for them to come forward,” says Bill Percy, a Manitoba-based lawyer who has represented numerous residential school survivors.

That’s because participation in the IAP hearings is optional.

Based on the total number of people found, so far, 4,450 have declined to participate in the IAP, with only 840 persons of interest indicating a willingness to participate.

‘There was 1 that groomed me’

One of the people who went through the IAP process is Janet Longclaws, who attended the Brandon Indian Residential School in Brandon, Man., from age seven until she was 12 years old.

“There was a group of four girls that were bullies, and there was one that groomed me,” said Longclaws.

“She became my protector, but at the same time it turned into her being the abuser next.”

Janet Longclaws

Janet Longclaws attended the Brandon Indian Residential School in Manitoba from the age of seven until she was 12 years old. (Supplied)

Now age 60, Longclaws suffers from nightmares and anxiety, especially in late August — a time that would have marked the beginning of a new school year.

Still, despite the nightmares and flashbacks of the physical and sexual abuse she endured, Longclaws cannot remember the names of her tormentors.

“I just see silhouettes of girls,” she said. “I’ve tried many times, many ways, to recall their names.”

Even though she can’t remember names, Longclaws eventually received a settlement for the abuse she suffered — though she waited 15 months for a decision.

Working as a health support worker for other residential school survivors, Longclaws said she has heard of others who have waited more than two years to hear whether they’ll be compensated.

She said she wishes she had the opportunity to face her alleged abusers in a hearing.

According to the Indian Residential School Secretariat, 33,712 residential school survivors so far have been compensated for sexual and physical abuse, with 4,278 applications in progress.

No information released to law enforcement

Only 708 alleged abusers — who are among the more than 5,300 located by investigators — have taken part in hearings since last November, with another 22 hearings scheduled.

“I think some of them … could be fearful there might be further repercussions, even criminal charges,” said Percy.

Percy also said many of these alleged perpetrators may have died, aged, or are living with some kind of medical condition, making it difficult for them to participate in an IAP hearing.

The identity and names of alleged perpetrators who want to participate in the IAP are kept on a secure server with other data related to IAP claims. They are not disclosed to anyone, other than the adjudicator in each specific claim, and to the Department of Indigenous Affairs.

Information would only be released if the adjudication secretariat is served with a search warrant, or if it’s believed a child could be at risk.

An alleged abuser is entitled to be notified of the claimant’s name and the allegations made by the claimant in the IAP application, but that person will not be given the claimant’s location, contact information, or any of the claimant’s personal information or records.

Few criminal charges

Percy says there is more former students can do, if they choose.

“There’s nothing to stop the individual survivor to go to the police, even though they told their story through this process,” he said.

Few, it seems, ever have.

Through the history of residential schools — which lasted over a century, with tens of thousands having suffered abuse — fewer than 50 people have been convicted for crimes related to the schools.

In the case of St. Anne’s Residential School, once located in Fort Albany, Ont., six school officials were criminally convicted following a five-year OPP investigation into the school during the 1990s.

By Martha Troian, for CBC News Posted: Feb 02, 2016