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Tsartlip Indian Day School survivor says settlement not enough

Angel Sampson works with local survivors to attempt to appeal their claims
Angel Sampson, second row, fourth from left, attended the Tsartlip Indian Day school for four years where she experienced sexual, physical and verbal abuse from teachers and medical staff. (Bailey Seymour/News Staff)

WARNING: This details in this story may be triggering

At the age of six, Angel Sampson was forced to learn how to keep a secret.

While children are often taught to never lie to their parents, for Sampson it felt like a matter of life and death – facing recurring violence and abuse at the Tsartlip Indian Day School in Saanichton, returning home each day in fear.

“The nuns threatened every day with more beatings, they would say we’re all going to go to hell if we talked about it, our parents would go to jail, we could be adopted out, or we can be put in an orphanage,” Sampson said. “Those are the threats we got at the age of six.”

Unlike residential schools, where children were forced to live there day and night, the roughly 200,000 Indigenous children who attended day schools across Canada would go home at the end of a school day.

Sampson, while sitting at a small table inside a coffee shop just outside of Tsartlip, appeared confident – with openness – and no nervousness; a stark contrast to the dark and disturbing sexual abuse and disregard for decency and safety she faced while attending the day school.

At the hands of Catholic clergy members, fellow students, doctors and dentists – all before she was the age of 10 – many of the incidents and abuse she recounted to Black Press Media are too disturbing to publish.

Sampson has been a beacon for many local fellow Indigenous people as they navigate intergenerational traumas, the permanent impacts of abuse, and most recently the $1.47 billion federal settlement for survivors of residential schools and day schools in the country.

She was one of six plaintiffs named in the original on the landmark case that began in 2009.

“When we all decided that we were going to settle, I didn’t think it would be this small amount for everything that we had to endure,” she said.

“I said, ‘shame on you Canada.’ It wasn’t just one child, it was hundreds of thousands of children that went through what I went through at every Day School across this country. And that’s all they’re offering?”

After the case was settled in 2019, survivors had to fill out a form and provide proof that they attended the school to receive their settlement: They could claim between $10,000 and $200,000 based on the abuse they endured. Those who were seeking more than the minimum settlement would need to provide more details and witness statements.

Claimants had three years to submit their application to Deloitte, an auditing firm that was appointed to administer the settlement, from January 2020 to 2023.

After the end of the submission period, there would be no further extensions, and no way to re-submit or amend the claimant’s first submission after they receive their settlement dollars.

Deloitte said they could not comment on matters related to the settlement, and they referred Black Press Media to Argyle, a communications firm that also speaks on behalf of Gowling WLG, a law firm that represented survivors in the class-action.

Argyle, on behalf of Gowling, said since the settlement, the Indian Day School website has seen 2.7 million visits. Fifteen thousand packages have been sent to friendship centres, band offices and Indigenous political organizations, and approximately 30 in-person and 50 virtual sessions took place in an effort to inform survivors of the settlement.

Sampson says those efforts weren’t enough, and she’s currently working with multiple Tsartlip survivors on a weekly basis in an attempt to appeal the process with Deloitte.

“There’s so many that applied for the highest amount, and then Deloitte has turned on that and said ‘we think you only deserve $10,000,’” Sampson said.

“Going through COVID, there was no ability to work one-on-one, face-to-face with anybody. There was no getting therapy from anybody and everybody just felt lost. They didn’t know how to do these forms, because our lawyers were back east, and everybody’s like, ‘what the hell? What do we do now?’”

She said most survivors she’s spoken with only applied for the minimum settlement in-part because they didn’t want to re-live past traumas, and akso due to minimal support during the pandemic.

Sampson thinks most of the survivors would have been able to qualify for level four or five settlements.

According to Crown-Indigenous Relations, as of April 1, 151,198 claims have been compensated, of which 115,680 have been paid as a minimum $10,000 claim.

“All aspects of the settlement agreement, including the compensation amounts, claims process and timelines, were approved by the Federal Court of Canada as fair, just and in the best interest of class members, and independent from the Government of Canada,” noted a statement from the ministy of crown-Indigenous relations.

“Deloitte is responsible for receiving and reviewing claim forms, determining eligibility and level of compensation to be awarded, and they are responsible for keeping class members updated on the status of their claim. Any intervention by the Government of Canada in the claims administrator’s processing of a survivor’s claim would be inappropriate and contrary to the settlement agreement and Federal court order.”

Roughly 30,000 claims are in various stages of processing, according to Argyle – some waiting for over two years, Sampson said, adding that there has been little-to-no communication between survivors and Gowling and Deloitte since the end of the submission period.

Over the past three years, Sampson has spoken with multiple other law firms in an attempt to press charges against the Roman Catholic Church, which ran over 300 of the 699 day schools across Canada.

“They’re getting away with decades and decades of abuse, and murder, and I don’t know why people don’t want to help us. That’s how our people are viewing the church, is that they are above the law,” she said.

Currently, she continues to work with survivors and their families on having their voices heard, and attempting to advocate for appropriate reparations for the abuse she and her community went through.

This includes just the other day, helping a young woman understand what her late father experienced while in the same school.

“I knew, I was there. So I wrote a narrative for her. I had to tell her and she just cried and cried. She’s almost 30 years old, this young woman, and she’s hearing about it for the first time in her life. The government should be ashamed for how they cheat our people and how they neglect our people.”

Sampson has since also opened a daycare in Saanichton, winning an Aboriginal Child Care Award for her work as an early childhood educator.

It’s one way she says she is ensuring that children know they have a voice in this world.

“They’ll always have a voice where I’m concerned, I will never ever not listen to a child talk. No matter how crazy their conversations get. You know, childcare has given me hope for our people.”

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Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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