July 12, 2016
There's nothing Cody Francis likes more than locating a "lost claimant" in the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). “It’s a true joy to be able to find, call and speak to a claimant directly. It’s always been a positive experience,” he said.
Francis is the lead analyst who oversees efforts to track down claimants who have gone missing during the compensation process for students who suffered abuse at an Indian Residential School.
To date, the Lost Claimant Protocol team have tracked down over 350 lost claimants. Out of 38,000 applications, only about 300 remain “lost” – an astonishingly small number for such a complex process.
Nearing its close with only about 3,000 claims left to resolve, the IAP has seen great success. It has not only served as a means for compensation but as a positive and liberating form of closure for many claimants.
Claimants become “lost” when they can’t be contacted and stop participating in the process to resolve their claims. In some cases counsel notifies the Secretariat that a claimant is unresponsive; in others, the Secretariat adds them to the lost claimant list when mail is returned or repeated efforts to contact them fail. Some claimants applied to the IAP thinking the process was far simpler then it actually is, like the Common Experience Payments (CEP), where they didn’t have to do anything else after applying. Others simply forgot they filed a claim in the first place. Claimants may also have become ill, moved or even passed away.
Regardless of the reason, the Secretariat has a duty to try to find them so that their claims can be resolved.
In 2014, the Courts approved a Lost Claimants Protocol, which provides authority for the Secretariat to contact claimants who can't be found. The protocol is part of the Chief Adjudicator’s plan to resolve the remaining IAP caseload in a fair, impartial and claimant-centred manner.
The Lost Claimant Protocol is a rigorous searching process that ensures the Secretariat does everything reasonably possible to find a claimant. In the simplest of terms the process starts by checking online sources such as Google, Canada 411 and Facebook. Searches are then systematically intensified to include outside agencies and partners that may possess contact information for lost claimants.
These processes are lengthy and can take months. Claimants who are not located enter the Incomplete File Resolution process, an alternate process to resolve claims, or their claims are resolved based on the available information within their applications.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Lost Claimant Protocol team, the Secretariat has been able to locate hundreds of claimants, giving them a chance to resolve their claims, and, in some cases, attend a hearing. “The most satisfying thing I ever experienced was when a claimant told me after I found her, ‘I thought you had forgotten about me!’” said Francis. “I was able to tell her that we hadn’t”.