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Chaos at day school claims deadline

Courtesy Kanien'keháka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center

By the strict deadline at the end of today, Indian Day School (IDS) compensation program claimants are urged to verify their applications, especially if they were filed during the Rogers outage in early July.

“During that week, I sent out a lot of claims. And in return, I was receiving electronic confirmations, but not with a subject area that I originally had identified,” said Louise Mayo, IDS coordinator at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK). “Right now I am struggling with Deloitte, advising them that these claims were clearly submitted at the same time with receipts. And they’re saying it’s not there.”

Deloitte was appointed to process these claims by the federal government following the $1.47-billion Federal Indian Day School Class Action Settlement to compensate victims harmed in association with Indian Day School.

Deloitte did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. 

Although members of the MCK involved with this task have made efforts to mitigate the situation primarily by providing direct assistance to community members wishing to submit or verify their claim, the situation is “detrimental” – in Mayo’s words – as the deadline is fast approaching. 

But that’s not all. An ongoing issue Mayo encountered since she began working on the day school committee almost two years ago is that some claims have been misfiled in Deloitte’s database, another avenue exacerbating the chaos for claims submissions.

“I tried to circumvent as many of those files at the time,” Mayo said of the claims she helped members of the community submit. She had encouraged all claimants who sought her assistance to follow up with Deloitte four to six weeks after their submission to ensure that their file was in fact properly uploaded. 

Mayo was able to help certain members of the community rectify their entries in the database. “I sent an email to a senior administrator at Deloitte and then they verified that in fact their claim was there, it was just that the agent didn’t carefully look for it.”

Mayo emphasized the importance for claimants who have submitted their applications, individually or with assistance, to call Deloitte’s call centre and ensure that their claim has been received and properly uploaded in their database, a message she also shared with the community via the K103 radio station last week. 

“You have to be more insistent with them and say ‘this is how I spell my name, and this is how it was entered in the system,’” said Mayo. 

Spelling errors in names as minor as a misplaced hyphen have resulted in the misclassification of the claimant’s file, who have then been told that their file is not in the database and were told to re-apply. 

Kahnawa’kehró:non Sharon Deer is one such claimant.

“Well it’s been hectic actually,” said Deer, who is the executor of her late uncle’s file. She had filed the claim over the phone with a call agent even before the original July 2022 deadline.

“They never asked me if my uncle’s name was one word – his last name – and they didn’t ask me how it was spelled. I guess they just assumed that it was two words instead of one word.” When Deer called to verify the claim after hearing Mayo’s radio announcement, the agent was unable to pull up the file. 

After some back and forth with Deloitte’s team, Mayo was able to successfully identify and correct the presumably missing file. As it turns out, her uncle’s full name, Frederick Leafhollow, was mistakenly entered as Leaf Hollow. 

“Claim agents that are working under the umbrella of the Indian Day School class action have not been properly trained to support individuals from the community, elderly people, or people hard of hearing,” said Mayo. “The call agent will say ‘No, not here,’ instead of saying ‘Ok, let’s dig further and try to see,’ because the individual has clearly told them that I submitted it for them.”

Since the inception of the program, 4,522 claims have been submitted throughout Kahnawake, according to statistics Mayo received in November 2022. The numbers are accounted for through school attendance between 1920 and 1988 under Schedule K – a document listing federal Indian Day Schools. 

Compensation from the program varies, from levels one to five, depending on the level of harm and abuse victims suffered. All claimants are entitled to the level-one $10,000 compensation provided they attended one of the qualifying day schools. Levels two to five require a detailed account of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. 

“Each one of us experienced our attendance at the school in many different ways, some in more harsh conditions than others… It’s important that the federal government is now acknowledging that the trauma that we went through at Indian Day School was very similar to the one at Indian residential school,” said Mayo. “Yes, we did get to go home at night, but we experienced the same trauma and it has been a lasting effect for many members of our community.”

Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.