Madam Speaker, today I am answering the question asked in the House by my hon. colleague from Calgary Centre-North on the aboriginal residential school program.
The government is committed to fast and fair compensation for residential school victims of abuse. We are pleased with the uptake of the alternative dispute resolution process since it was launched by the government in November 2003. To date, more than 1,300 former students have chosen ADR to resolve their abuse claims relating specifically to sexual or physical abuse or wrongful confinement. Each month 100 additional survivors apply.
This process is about providing choice to claimants. The ADR process is focused on resolving claims in a timely, private and humane manner. We are giving priority to elderly claimants who are 70 years and older and to those in failing health. The underpinning of the ADR process is to resolve a significant number of outstanding claims within seven years and provide compensation to claimants. In addition, significant resources have been earmarked to ensure claimants will have access to counselling services and commemoration activities and that validation of claims occurs.
Of course, moneys will also be spent by the government on our operations and the government will continue to respond to litigation as it is obligated to do. It is unclear to me where the hon. member has obtained his cost estimates but they are clearly wrong.
Further, as my hon. colleague may not be aware, approximately 87,000 former students are alive today according to Statistics Canada. Of this number, over 13,000 former students have filed abuse claims against the government.
To date, nearly 2,000 claims has been resolved, the vast majority through out of court processes. Over 1,300 individuals have now chosen to resolve their claims through the new ADR process.
Furthermore, my hon. colleague seems to be suggesting that these claims should not be validated. The Government of Canada is committed to validating complaints of abuse. We are trying to establish an equitable process for all parties.
As part of that, we are hiring consultants to find alleged abusers to inform them that they have been identified in a claim. These consultants will not be researching former students who have filed a claim.
This work is not new. Locating persons of interest, alleged abusers, assists us in validating abuse claims and protects the rights of individuals by informing them that they have been identified by a claimant. Consultants will also inquire whether these individuals are interested in obtaining additional information or participating in hearings.
We have a year's experience in house locating these individuals. However we want to speed up the process by contracting these services to professionals. We are using the services of consultants on an as and when required basis.
We are sensitive to the fact that persons of interest are elderly. We are working with church entities to develop protocol and standards for this work.
When dealing with claims of abuse, rights are paramount with regard to proving the merits of claims, protecting the rights of claimants and ensuring accountability to Canadian taxpayers.