Six Nations community members are being invited to advise how the $200 million legacy fund for day school survivors should be administered.
Indigenous communities across the country are being asked to advise the McLean’s Day School Settlement Corp. how to administer the legacy fund.
Claudette Commanda, a day school survivor and chair of the corporation, told Six Nations Elected Council at its political liaison meeting on Monday that the administration of funds should be survivor-led.
“This legacy fund must be survivor-led,” she said. “It is survivor-oriented and survivor-led.”
The legacy fund is part of the $1.2 billion Indian Day School Settlement Agreement, which seeks to compensate victims from Indigenous communities who attended Indian “day schools” on-reserve until 1997.
The Canadian government agreed to the settlement in 2019, with individual claimants eligible for amounts ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 depending on the severity of abuse suffered while attending a day school.
About $200 million of the settlement was set aside for the legacy fund, to be spent on healing and reconciliation for Indigenous communities, namely support four areas: language and culture, healing and wellness, commemoration, and truth telling.
The massive class-action lawsuit was spearheaded by the late Gary McLean, who died one month before Canada agreed to the settlement amount.
“He was the champion for justice…for Indian Day School survivors,” said Commanda. “He negotiated, he advocated for this legacy fund. He saw that there was a need to support healing and wellness, language and culture, truth telling and commemoration.”
She said it’s important that the board of the McLean settlement corporation hears from survivors on how to implement the fund.
The corporation will be holding virtual legacy fund outreach and engagement sessions across the country and invites survivors and their family members to provide recommendations to the board.
“It’s so important because we need recommendations from the survivors and your families on, ‘what is important to you as a survivor? What kind of programs would you like to see in language and culture, healing and wellness, commemoration, truth telling?’”
Survivors can participate in engagement sessions through the virtual platform, or, they can provide feedback by filling out the online form on the corporation’s website, via email or regular mail.
“We encourage survivors to participate,” said Commanda. “I’m a firm believer this has to be survivor-led. We need your recommendations so we can develop those guidelines…to get those funds out to the communities.”
Funds will go out to community-based charities through proposal-driven process.
The legacy fund is specific to day school survivors. Six Nations had the largest number of day schools of any reserve in the country.
Commanda will be sending elected council the contact information to take part in the engagement process.
$40 million of the legacy fund is for language and culture, $40 million is for commemmoration and the balance of the $200 million is at the discretion of the board.
There is no limit for each grant, said Commanda, and that’s one of the questions to be asked of survivors.
“We want to get this money out as soon as possible, but we need to develop the guidelines, the criteria and the process, but we don’t want to do this without the survivors.”
Council said it will discuss the issue further.