Tue, May 31, 2005

Judge to mediate abuse talks
Former justice hired to help with residential school compensation deal

OTTAWA -- Former students who endured rampant abuse in Indian residential schools were expecting a long-awaited compensation deal today.

Instead, they got news former Supreme Court Judge Frank Iacobucci will mediate ongoing talks for the federal government.

Iacobucci is to work with government officials, the Assembly of First Nations, former students and others, and report back by March 31 with a proposed settlement package.

Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan also signed a deal with the AFN that will see the native group play a key role in the process.

The government and the AFN hailed the deal as a "historic moment."

The appointment of Iacobucci is good news for residential school survivors in Alberta, says Calgary lawyer Vaughn Marshall, who has been involved in representing more than 600 survivors since 1997.

"So long as the government gives Justice Iacobucci a free hand with a comprehensive mandate, we expect he will be able to help bring long-needed closure to this historical wrong," he said.

"Our clients have been waiting years for the government to do the right thing and come to the table.

"For some it is too late -- no more victims should die waiting for justice."