A 70-year-old Saskatchewan day school survivor was very nearly the victim of a direct deposit scam.
It happened last week on Piapot Cree Nation, about 50 km northwest of Regina.
“We had a band member that was contacted by a person posing as an Indian day school representative requesting banking information,” said Kristin Francis, a spokesperson for the 2,500-member band.
The elderly woman didn’t provide any information and contacted the band office, where officials reached out to the Indian day schools class-action claims administrator of the multi-million-dollar school settlement for clarification.
As a result, the direct deposit option has been removed from the settlement’s web site and survivors will only receive cheques for compensation.
“I wanted to confirm that Deloitte is not issuing any payments by direct deposit,” said a spokesperson.
“This means claimants should not be providing their bank account information to anyone.”
Kristin Francis is the external relations and communications co-ordinator of Piapot First Nation.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit survivors (former daytime students) are eligible for compensation of between $10,000 and $200,000 for abuse suffered from being forced to attend the federally run schools that opened in 1920.
The school in Piapot – Payepot run by Presbyterian Roman Catholic church – was one of the last to close in Canada in 1997.
The First Nation has hundreds of survivors.
“We were very avid on keeping everyone informed of every aspect of the settlement,” said Francis, noting the band has made helping survivors a priority and held several on- and off-reserve information sessions.
“Since the claims process begun, we were able to assist nearly 300 band members with their claims.”
An estimated 140,000 survivors have until July 13, 2022 to file a claim.
Francis saw the scam attempt as a teachable moment and posted a warning on Facebook.
“I was worried, because all I could think about was all the kokums and moshoms (grandparents) who could get easily deceived by this,” she said.
“So, I created a post on Piapot’s Facebook page and before I knew it, the post was shared over 1,600 times.”
Ira Lavallee is a day school survivor and band councillor from Piapot First Nation.
Piapot band Coun. Ira Lavallee, who oversees the band’s education portfolio, is also a day school survivor.
“It was important for us to ensure that our members received accurate information regarding the settlement,” he said.
“A lot of our members are older and don’t necessarily have the technological know-how to access information, let alone complete their claims.”
It’s not the first time survivors of Canada’s residential school system have been targeted for their compensation funds.
APTN News has done extensive coverage of certain lawyers and their employees who schemed to defraud survivors of their cut of the Indian residential schools settlement agreement, which didn’t include day school students.
Architects of the day school settlement say they learned from that and built a system where survivors fill out their own forms with legal and administrative help available online and via phone.
Lavallee said Piapot is doing everything it can to inform and protect its survivors.
“Our goal is to be there for our people and to always have their best interests in mind,” he said in a statement. “Our staff did a great job in assisting and keeping our members informed of the Indian day school settlement from Day 1.
“By jumping on the bandwagon right away we helped alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety that former students could’ve faced when dealing with this type of thing. Our members were more than grateful for the help that they received.”