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MLA speaks out about abuse

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 01/06) - When residential school survivors met to tell their stories - for a judicial review of a proposed $1.9 billion settlement - one of the territories' most prominent politicians was on hand.

MLA and Minister of Community and Government Services Levinia Brown was at the residential school hearings held in Iqaluit Oct. 10 to 11 to tell her story.

NNSL Photo/graphic
Levinia Brown

"For many years, I had blocked it out, until I went for counselling. Hopefully, it will help others. It was important for me to find out that I am not alone," said Brown, who represents Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove.

Brown attended residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, and was quick to show the pulling motion that the teachers used on her ear.

"I spoke to friends first, and they had similar experiences. I know that a lot of us were ashamed," said Brown.

Brown's school was a Catholic one.

Even though she suffered abuse from her keepers, she is still a member of the religion.

"Why? I guess it is because I believe. I like church. The choir, and the quiet, it is great for thinking," said Brown.

All the children in Brown's family were baptized Catholic to make school easier for them.

She told the story of two little Anglican girls who arrived at her school. Both were sent home the same day they arrived, after their Anglican roots were discovered.

Her recollections are far from the worst examples of abuse under the residential school system, stories that include horrifying accounts of sexual assault.

The federal government's residential school settlement package was proposed in November 2005. Hearings have been held around the country, giving survivors their say.

The compensation package for Inuit and First Nations students would include $10,000 for the first year of attendance at residential school and $3,000 for each year thereafter.

Those who can prove loss of income due to abuse could be in line for additional compensation.

It is hoped that a decision will be reached in November, but it could take five years to get the payments out, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said.