About the Independent Assessment Process
The Independent Assessment Process (IAP) was created to resolve claims of abuse at residential schools. The process is non-adversarial. This means that everyone involved participates in a spirit of cooperation.
The IAP involves a private hearing – not in a courtroom – that will allow you to tell your experience to a neutral adjudicator. The adjudicator will ask you questions and manage the hearing. Besides you, the hearing will include your lawyer (if you have one), a representative of the Government of Canada, possibly a representative of the church and the claimant’s witnesses (if there are any). Every person at an IAP hearing signs a confidentiality form to ensure that a claimant’s privacy will be maintained.
For many claimants, a hearing is not just a place to make a claim. It’s an opportunity to share experiences, often for the first time. Depending on what you need, others present may include support people for you, both your personal support people and others, such as a Health Support Worker or a Cultural Support Worker, an Elder or religious person, and an interpreter.
After the hearing, if the claim is allowed, the adjudicator will use a formula to decide on compensation. This formula was set out in the Settlement Agreement. The hearings and the compensation are ways to help bring closure to residential school experiences.
Your claim doesn’t have to go to a hearing
If you have a lawyer, then you and your lawyer can work with the Government of Canada on settling your claim in a Negotiated Settlement. This can happen at any time in the process. If such attempts are not successful, your claim will proceed to a decision by the adjudicator.
Your hearing may include any of the following participants
You, the claimant: As a former student of a residential school, you will be expected to provide testimony about the abuse that happened as well as how the abuse affected your life. You can hire a lawyer to represent you in the IAP, or you can represent yourself. All parties to the IAP recommend that claimants hire a lawyer as the process involves complex legal issues and processes.
Your lawyer: If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will represent your interests during the hearing and throughout the IAP. Your lawyer’s job is to listen closely to your testimony to make sure you have every opportunity to provide evidence and to ensure all the legal tests are met for a successful claim. Your lawyer is not allowed to question you directly during the hearing, but can recommend questions for the adjudicator to ask.
Adjudicator: Adjudicators are independent decision-makers who manage the hearing. The hearing allows the adjudicator to question you on what you stated in your application to better understand what happened, to clear up any concerns, and to decide if there is enough evidence to award compensation. Adjudicators have been selected by the parties of the Settlement Agreement to adjudicate IAP hearings. The adjudicator is the only person allowed to question you at your hearing.
Government of Canada representative: This individual represents the interests of the defendant, the Government of Canada. His or her role at the hearing is to listen closely to your testimony and to raise any concerns that the government may have about a claim. The representative is not allowed to question you directly, but can recommend questions for the adjudicator to ask.
Church representative: If you request that a church representative not attend your hearing, the church will usually honour your request. As a party to the Settlement Agreement, however, the church has the right to attend hearings and oppose the claim. The church representative may also be available to offer a personal apology.
Other People Can Attend Your Hearing
With your permission, the following people can also attend your hearing:
Your support people: You have the right to bring support people of your choice to the hearing. The Secretariat will pay for their travel and accommodation (transportation, meals, and hotel) expenses for up to two support people. You may ask if more support people can attend your hearing at their own expense. You are entitled to have a Health Support Worker, a Cultural Support Provider or a Service Provider provide emotional support to you prior to, during and following the IAP hearing.
Health Support Worker: You have the right to request that a Health Support Worker attend the hearing. The support worker can help you deal with the emotions that may come up during the hearing and provide cultural support. In fact, you can begin working with a Health Support Worker well before your hearing to help you prepare.
Elders: You have the right to have an Elder at your hearing. You can bring one with you (in addition to the support people above) or the Secretariat can arrange to have an Elder attend the hearing. An Elder can help you prepare for the hearing, offer a prayer or ceremony before the hearing starts, and help you through an emotional day. The Secretariat will pay for an Elder’s travel costs.
Interpreters: You have the right to provide testimony in the language of your choice, including any Aboriginal dialect. The Secretariat will arrange for an interpreter and pay the interpreter’s travel costs. An interpreter cannot be a family member.
Your witnesses: You can bring a witness with you to your hearing if you have provided a written witness statement two weeks before your hearing. Witnesses can testify about what they saw and heard to support your claim.