Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address the important issue of federal funding of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
My hon. colleagues have already spoken to the legacy that the Indian residential school system has left in Canadian history. Only by working together can Canadians come to terms with our past and create a better future.
Our Conservative government is committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.
Four years ago, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement earned the approval of all key parties: the Government of Canada, former students, churches, the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations. The agreement was the culmination of an exhaustive process of research, conciliation and negotiation.
The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement features both tangible and symbolic elements. It provides financial compensation, counselling and support services, along with commemorative activities.
The implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement is continuing and all Canadians should take pride in this progress. More than $1.5 billion in common experience payments have been made, and more than 99,000 claims have been received.
The independent assessment process has achieved similar success. This out-of-court process aims to resolve claims of physical and sexual abuse suffered at Indian residential schools. So far, more than 15,000 claims have been received, and victims have received more than $270 million in compensation.
Of course, no amount of money can ever hope to compensate for the damage caused by Indian residential schools. All we can do is hope that these funds enable individuals to move forward with their lives and that reconciliation brings aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians a little closer together.
Remember, there is no precedent for such a large-scale reconciliation.
As acknowledged by our Prime Minister, individuals and communities affected by Indian residential schools have been working on recovering from the impact of the residential schools legacy. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has played a leading role in that effort, and for that role we thank it.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established in 1998 in response to the recommendations arising from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation funded projects to help aboriginal individuals, families and communities to address the effects of abuses and cultural losses suffered as a result of attendance at Indian residential schools.
The Government of Canada appreciates the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's valuable contribution. It is precisely for this reason that the parties to the settlement agreement negotiated an additional $125 million endowment for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. These funds effectively extended the organization's mandate through March 2012 and supports the operation of the foundation's 12 healing centres until that date.
In all, the Government of Canada has contributed a total of $515 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since 1998. The work of the foundation has been significant, providing healing programs and services to address the experiences of survivors of Indian residential schools, their families and communities.
The Government of Canada's decision to fund the Aboriginal Healing Foundation beyond its original mandate demonstrates a commitment to accountability for the legacy of Indian residential schools.
The good work of aboriginal organizations funded by the foundation forms the reconciliation with aboriginal peoples.
The government continues to ensure that the appropriate supports are in place throughout the duration of the settlement agreement. This includes $199 million over two years in budget 2010 for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Health Canada to address the increased demand for services due to the common experience payment and the independent assessment process. The bulk of this money, $133.2 million over two years, will cover the greater than anticipated cost of implementing the agreement.
These funds will help Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to manage the independent assessment process and common experience payment. The remainder of the money, $65.9 million over two years, has been allotted to help Canada's Indian residential schools resolution health support program. These programs provide mental health and emotional support services to former students and their families as they participate in the various components of the settlement agreement, such as the independent assessment process and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It is important to note that this is new money. Budget 2010 does not reallocate funds once allotted to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It is also important to note that these funds enable Canada to fulfill its ongoing legal obligation to provide emotional and mental health supports to former Indian residential school students and their family members as they participate in the various components of the settlement agreement.
Through the resolution health support program, Health Canada provides access to over 1,600 service providers, including professional counsellors, community-based aboriginal workers, elders and traditional healers in every province and territory, in communities throughout Canada. It also provides assistance with the cost of transportation to access services not available in the home community.
This is not a cookie-cutter approach to programming. We recognize the diversity of needs and are responding accordingly. We understand that western-style counselling is not always a preferred service. In fact, while it is important that there is access to psychologists and other counsellors, we are also aware that former students often request to spend time with aboriginal workers from their community or elders who can assist them in their traditional ways.
The resolution health support program is designed to meet these diverse needs. It provides access to community-based cultural and emotional support, as well as professional counselling.
Cultural support services are provided by local aboriginal organizations. Through them, elders or traditional healers are available to assist former students and their families with specific services determined by the needs of the individual and include dialogue, ceremonies, prayers or traditional healing.
Emotional support services are also provided by local aboriginal organizations. Through them, an aboriginal community-based worker who has training and experience working with former students of Indian residential schools will listen, talk and support former students and their family members throughout the settlement agreement process.
In addition, the Government of Canada also funds two other initiatives designed to provide support to survivors of Indian residential schools: the national Indian residential school crisis line; and future care, which provides additional funds for counselling of eligible former students. Future care is linked to the independent assessment process. Claimants can apply for funding to cover costs of future treatment or counselling services worth up to $10,000 for general care and up to $15,000 for psychiatric care. To date, the average independent assessment process award is $125,000, and the average future care component is more than $8,000.
The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is intended to promote reconciliation among all Canadians at both the national and community levels. The creation and preservation of a complete and accurate historical record of the Indian residential school system and its legacy will allow Canadians to confront the past and build a better future. The commission will honour the experiences of former students and their families, pay tribute to their experiences, assign responsibility appropriately and foster healing across the nation.
Further, $20 million has been allocated for ceremonial activities that will promote awareness and public education about the residential school system and its impacts.
Our Conservative government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools. This government recognizes that bringing closure to the legacy lies at the heart of reconciliation and renewal of relationships between aboriginal people who attended these schools, their families, communities, and all Canadians.
This government will continue to promote reconciliation for the legacy of Indian residential schools by supporting the settlement agreement. This government also continues to support a range of programs and initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life experienced by aboriginal people in this country.
Canada continues to make significant progress on a broad range of issues that prevent aboriginal people from sharing in the full prosperity of this nation. From specific claims and drinking water to education and family services, a variety of reforms and initiatives are under way.
Tripartite agreements with provinces and aboriginal groups will increase access to programs that are more effective and that respond directly to specific needs. The implementation of a comprehensive northern strategy has generated opportunities for aboriginal people and northerners. Legislation supported by Parliament establishes a specific claims tribunal and extends the protections accorded under the Canadian Human Rights Act to residents of first nations communities.
It is vital that my hon. colleagues consider the issue of Aboriginal Healing Foundation funding in this larger context. This government continues to support a host of programs, initiatives and activities that benefit aboriginal people, including those affected by the legacy of Indian residential schools.