OTTAWA – On Monday, August 19 one of the final hurdles for the settlement of the Indian Day School class action suit seeking compensation for harms suffered while attending Federal Indian Day Schools and Federal Day Schools prior to 1988 was passed as the settlement was approved by the courts.
“I think this is good news,” said Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier, who noted that the final settlement will likely come following the 90-day opt out period. Ogimaa Peltier said that estimates he has seen suggest that as many as 2,000 members of his community would be eligible for the payouts. “Just about everyone who attended school before 1988 would qualify.”
“Today, we are proud to announce that justice has been served for the students of Federal Indian Day Schools and Federal Day Schools,” reads a released statement from lead plaintiffs Roger Augustine, Claudette Commanda, Angela Sampson and Mariette Buckshot. “This settlement is a turning point for all who have suffered and continue to suffer from their experiences, and from their family members’ experiences. It is a milestone on our path to healing. With this settlement, we will continue to work towards reclaiming our languages, cultures and traditions, for our children and our grandchildren. We would like to thank and honour Garry McLean who dedicated so much and for so many years to make this settlement happen. He would be so proud to see what has been accomplished today.”
Mr. McLean launched the class action lawsuit in 2009 against Canada over the abuse and harms inflicted upon Indigenous students who were forced to attend Indian Day Schools across Canada. Mr. McLean, himself an Indian Day School survivor, died earlier this year from cancer—just two months after he and federal government officials announced they had reached a tentative settlement agreement.
In a statement on the decision, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the court’s decision marks recognition of the hard work undertaken by all sides toward finding a lasting and meaningful resolution for former students and their families.
“The mistreatment of Indigenous children is a tragic and shameful part of Canada’s history that has had devastating effects on generations of families,” said Minister Bennett following the announcement. “Canada is deeply committed to reconciliation and healing, and will continue the important work of making amends for past wrongs.”
The settlement compensation for eligible class members ranges from $10,000 to $200,000 based on the level of harm experienced. The threshold for the $10,000 compensation will simply be proof of attendance at one of the Day Schools, while the larger amounts would be based on additional abuse suffered at the schools.
Residential school survivors who also attended Indian Day Schools are also eligible for the class action settlement.
Estates can make claims going back to November 2007. If the person on which the claim is based left on their spirit journey between November of 2007 and the present, their estate can still make a claim on that individual’s behalf.
There is also the creation of a Legacy Fund of $200 million to support commemoration projects, health and wellness projects and language and culture initiatives included in the settlement.
To be eligible for compensation, survivors must have attended one of the identified Day Schools listed on Schedule K, which can be found at www.IndianDaySchools.ca.
There is a 90-day opt out period that began on August 19. Members of the class action suit have 90 days to opt-out of the settlement by removing themselves from the Class. Opting out is a serious and permanent decision, as those choosing to do so will receive no compensation from the Indian Day School Class Action settlement, but they will retain the right to bring an individual claim against Canada at their own cost for harms suffered, if they wish to do so. Anyone choosing to opt out must complete and submit the Opt Out Form by November 18.
Claims for compensation will begin to be processed for compensation 120 days from August 19, subject to any appeals that are brought. More information will be available on the website in the coming weeks.
“My understanding is that there is a 90-day appeal period,” said Ogimaa Peltier.
Class Members will have two-and-a-half years to complete the Claims Form. To be eligible for compensation, survivor class members must have attended one of the identified Day Schools listed on Schedule K.
Manitoulin Day Schools listed on Schedule K include: Whitefish River Shawanosowe, Buzwah’s Village Paswa, Rabbit Island Indian Day School No. 455, Sheshegwaning, Sheguiandah (both Anglican and Roman Catholic), South Bay, Spanish Day School, West Bay (M’Chigeeng), Wikwemikong Junior, Wikwemikong Senior and Wikwemikong High School (Roman Catholic).
Mental health counselling and crisis support is available to Class Members 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hope for Wellness Hotline. Contact Hope for Wellness at 1-855-242-3310 or through their online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca. Counselling is available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut, on request.