A British Columbia Indigenous leader says the approved Federal Court settlement of a class-action lawsuit for those who attended Indian residential school during the day will ensure compensation for those harmed comes in their lifetime.
Former shishalh chief Garry Feschuk and former Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc chief Shane Gottfriedson began the lawsuit more than a decade ago seeking justice for day scholars abused while at the schools but who were ineligible for the 2006 settlement for full-time students.
A Federal Court judge approved the proposed settlement for day scholars on Sept. 24, ruling the terms, reached earlier this year, are “fair and reasonable.”
In a statement, Feschuk says the compensation process isn’t ready to start yet, but will be simple when it begins, in order to “minimize the burden” on those making claims.
Survivors will each receive compensation of $10,000, an amount that will also go to the estates and descendants of those who died before the settlement was reached.
The federal government pledged to invest a further $50 million into a Day Scholars Revitalization Fund to rebuild language, culture and community among the First Nations whose children were forced by Canadian authorities to attend the schools.
A statement issued last week by Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, confirms the class-action claim has been separated to allow faster compensation to survivors and descendants while the court will continue to hear the portion of the suit dealing with harms to Indigenous bands.
Selina August and Jeanette Jules, who were also plaintiffs in the legal action, said day students were punished for speaking their language or exercising their culture, just like those forced to live at the schools.
Diena Jules, who was just seven when she attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School, described being physically and verbally abused by nuns and priests, called stupid and pagan, and told to become “more white,” while also being bullied by residential students because she was allowed to keep her long hair and wear her own clothes.
“I became disconnected with my family and community. I lost language, my cultural pride and my own identity,” she said in an interview in June.
A statement posted online by Waddell Phillips, the legal team representing day scholars, said a settlement notice would be sent out soon advising of the process and start date for making claims.
“Claimants will only need to fill out a simple form and will not need to provide any information about their experiences at residential schools,” the statement said.
The application process was expected to be open by early December.
—The Canadian Press