Residential school payments address by First Nations chief

By The Associated Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba (AP) 10-07

As he introduced the recipient of the first residential school payment earlier this year, Canada’s top First Nations leader continued to suggest it may be racist to question how that money gets spent – despite a report by a national agency for victims that has raised concerns.

Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, attended an Edmonton ceremony celebrating Mary Moonias as the first former student to receive money under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Speaking in Cree and wearing an eagle feather, Moonias was a living embodiment of the culture residential schools tried to suppress.

“This is the greatest day of my life,” said the 62-year-old retired Cree immersion teacher from Hobbema, about 62 miles south of Edmonton. “This is a beautiful day for me.”

But a recent report by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation says matives who have already received money in other deals with the government saw many negative impacts. The report was based on interviews with more than 100 people who had received checks.

“Increased drug and alcohol abuse was among the most commonly cited consequences of (payments) by recipients,” the report states.

One recipient estimated that two-thirds of fellow survivors struggled with their payments. Another was quoted as saying, “If you don’t start healing, the money will kill you.”