The remaining members of a class-action lawsuit launched against the federal government on behalf of Day Scholars who attended Residential Schools will finally get some solace after they reached a settlement with the federal government yesterday.
Day scholars and their descendants were originally excluded from 2006 Residential Schools settlement because they were day students at the schools.
The class action, which was launched in 2015, was also filed on behalf of the children of day scholars and 105 First Nations that have signed on.
Survivors and their descendants will receive $10,000 per student. In addition, the government will invest $50 million in the creation of a non-profit organization mandated with preserving Indigenous languages and culture and helping descendants recapture some of what was lost, she said.
“It’s a momentous occasion. It’s an important achievement in our collective path toward reconciliation. The government continues to work to correct colonial policies and to right past wrongs,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
“We know that the (Residential School Day Scholars) suffered unspeakable harms and trauma. They were stripped of their language and their culture,” she said. “We know the harms visited upon these children can not be fixed by any dollar amount.”
The agreement is awaiting court approval and is signed and expected to be finalized by late summer.
The government’s initial statement of defence argued the country never had a ‘Residential School policy,’ and that Canada never intended to ‘eradicate Aboriginal languages, culture, identity, or spiritual practices,’ through the institutions, which runs counter to the government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings.
Survivor and class-action leader Charlotte Gilbert recounted the 14-year legal battle with the government, saying that every time they had to go back to court they had to relive past trauma.
“It’s been so long. Not easy. Every time we went to court, we had to regurgitate the same trauma,” she said, pausing to contain her emotion. “We were children. We were children. We didn’t deserve the abuse they put us through. The priests, the sisters, the teachers. Even some of the other students who were jealous that we could wear long hair and wear the clothes we wanted,” she said.
Day scholars were excluded from the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and thus not eligible for the common experience payments that were part of the deal — $10,000 for the first year of living at a residential school and $3,000 for every year after.
Residential Schools – and the atrocities committed upon generations of Indigenous children there – have dominated headlines in Canada after the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found in a shallow grave outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School building in Kamloops, B.C. late last month.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase