Fwd: He was beaten when he spoke his native language
Donald Z. Osborn
dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Sun Aug 22 00:33:21 UTC 2004
[reposted from multied-l at usc.edu]
"He was beaten when he spoke his native language instead of English,
sometimes with a broken conveyor belt, in a cycle of abuse that continued until
he left at 17."
Lawyers praised for support of native survivors
By KIM LUNMAN
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - Page A5
Ray Mason had never taken a bus until one mysteriously pulled up at his door on
the Peguis First Nation at dawn to collect the frightened seven-year-old. He
still remembers watching his Manitoba reserve disappear in the distance through
the rear-view mirror. "My mother was crying and saying, 'I hope he comes back.'
The Indian agent said, 'Don't worry; he'll be back.' " Mr. Mason, who is among
thousands of survivors of residential schools seeking compensation from the
federal government, spent the next 10 years of his life bouncing from one
school to another. He was beaten when he spoke his native language instead of
English, sometimes with a broken conveyor belt, in a cycle of abuse that
continued until he left at 17.
"It's a horrible thing," said Mr. Mason, chairman of the Spirit Wind Association
representing about 5,000 residential school survivors in Manitoba. "We suffered
psychological and mental torture." He commended the Canadian Bar Association
yesterday for passing a resolution at its annual meeting in Winnipeg calling on
the federal government to compensate all surviving victims of residential
schools. As many as 90,000 of the survivors are estimated to be still alive.
"The government should realize we were all in it together," said Mr. Mason, 57.
"Why does the Canadian government have to take us to court to see what they've
done to us?"
"We're saying that's not fair," said Darcy Merkur, one of the lawyers
representing survivors in a national class action lawsuit involving 19 law
firms. "This was institutional child abuse. They were basically scarred for
life." Mr. Merkur said former students should be entitled to compensation
packages in the range of $20,000 to $40,000. Ottawa apologized six years ago
for abuses in the residential schools, which were owned by the government but
run by churches. Few claims have been settled, however.
The government's $1.7-billion dispute settlement plan, which is designed to
compensate an estimated 15 per cent of all residential school survivors, has
been criticized by native leaders, victims and their lawyers. The plan aims to
settle over 12,000 lawsuits launched by former students. So far, more than
1,250 settlements have been reached, at a cost of $71-million to the federal
Eric Pelletier, a spokesman for the Office of Indian Residential Schools
Resolution, said the current program is addressing a sad chapter in Canada's
history as best it can. "We have been looking at different responses and still
think our current program is the best response," he said. The federal plan puts
cases before adjudicators, with Ottawa covering 70 per cent of proven damages
for physical and sexual abuse. But plaintiffs must sign away their future right
to sue for language and cultural losses. The remainder of the settlement must
be collected from churches that ran the schools.
Churches ran residential schools in partnership with Ottawa until most were
closed in the 1970s. The last school shut its doors in 1996. In February,
Ottawa announced it was appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a B.C.
ruling that held the federal government 100-per-cent liable for native
residential school settlements in that province. The B.C. Court of Appeal last
year overturned a 1998 ruling that made the United Church partly liable for
abuse at a former residential school in Port Alberni.
Mr. Mason's painful memories followed him on a recent visit to one of his former
schools. "It was like a horrible dream," he said. "I thought 'My God, I lived
in this box for how many years? Just standing there. It was so gray looking.
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