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July 17, 2018 26.0°C

Past wrongs and present-day concerns

Posted on August 29, 2017 by Maple Creek

Wayne Litke

Getting back to the intended point of last week’s column (which I failed to address), I have been wondering about a lot of different things these days. I was pondering if a person can publicly state an action or opinion is socially unacceptable without fear of persecution or prosecution?
Generally speaking, being critical of minority groups or their rights in Canada (such as wearing a burka and expecting routine business service) can result in a person being perceived as a redneck extremist.
Sadly, the actions of real hate mongers such as white supremacists and neo-Nazis have caused many people to incorrectly believe any criticism of an ethnic or minority group is hateful. As a result, publicly expressing concern regarding the human rights of minorities is often stifled.
This in turn allows special interest groups to propel their agendas at the expense of Canadian standards, customs and expectations.
We live in a great country, and yet it is not without issues. We blame our governments for many of our problems and sometimes that assessment is correct, but there are often many factors that complicate a matter. A recent story in the Regina Leader-Post about compensation for former residential school victims reminded me of that fact.
Resolving the largest class-action settlement in our nation’s history will cost at least triple the sum that was originally estimated at $960 million. That seems outrageous, but is it?
According to reporter Maura Forrest, the decade-long process that now involves 38,000 cases may not conclude until 2023 and total $3.14 billion. Some of the reasons the cost has ballooned is an additional $700 million for administration fees.
That sum includes legal fees paid to lawyers who were allowed to charge the government for their work, as well as the residential school clients they represented. A lawyer who worked on the settlement and represented victims said, “It’s absolutely ridiculous. This became an industry for everyone involved.”
Original estimates in 2005 projected 2,500 hearings per year over a five-year period. That’s only 12,500 settlements.
Who knows why the estimates were so low? I am guessing school and government records somehow went missing and documented information about enrolments became difficult to locate.
To date, 97 per cent of the 38,099 claims filed have been resolved. That may be quite acceptable considering the slow and cumbersome rate at which most federal agencies move.
The entire settlement process has been painful for victims as they were forced to relive details in order to determine the severity of their abuse. The details are used to determine the degree of suffering involved which in turn determines the monetary settlement a victim can receive.
One victim I spoke with expressed her frustration with the process since she personally dealt with her physical and emotional suffering. After briefly reverting to petty crime in order to survive, she changed her ways and did everything in her power to improve herself. “I did not become a drug addict or prostitute,” she told me, “and even though I suffered as much as those who fell into such traps, I received considerably less in compensation. Is that fair?”
Ironically, one woman told me her years in residential school were not all negative since she learned to read and write and received an education. “I chose to overlook the bad things that occurred and not allow them to determine the type of person I am. I taught my children the value of education and it has served them well.”
I do not believe settlements for past mistakes is necessarily wrong, but cash alone will not solve social issues. Addressing past injustices is essential to any healing process and in the case of residential schools some very big and horrific mistakes were made. However, healing a person’s he
art seldom requires a monetary payment. The essential elements required for inner healing are a desire to put a matter to rest and a willingness to truly forgive the offending parties. It’s sad to say that many of us carry offense around like it is a badge of honour and fail to realize the toll it takes on our mental and physical health.
I did not intend to devote so much space to this issue since there are many other examples of problems in our world. Excessive delays in Canadian court proceedings is one such issue. Unusually long delays in court cases have resulted in people charged with serious offenses simply walking free. In fact, some trials in Canada have been adjourned as many as 37 times!
Our legal system came to mind when I read about the upcoming sentencing of the La Loche shooter who gunned down four people in January, 2016.
It was suggested that he may suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, but an assessment was inconclusive. Unfortunately, the presiding judge must tolerate such defense tactics as he considers how to sentence the shooter who turned 19 while incarcerated.
The young man pleaded guilty to the murders last October and will likely be sentenced at the start of September. I hope an 11-month delay in sentencing someone who admitted to the crimes is a rarity.
The question now is will he receive a life sentence as an adult or be sentenced as a juvenile and face a maximum six-year term in custody and four years under supervision in the community?

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