‘Historic’ $2.8B class-action indigenous court settlement approved IG News

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A federal court judge has approved a $2.8 billion settlement between the Canadian government and plaintiffs representing 325 First Nations whose members attended residential day schools.

Justice Ann Marie McDonald said in her decision issued Thursday that the purpose of the agreement is to help take steps to reverse the loss of language, culture and heritage through an Indigenous-led non-profit.

“This settlement is historic both in terms of the amount of the settlement and its unique structure,” McDonald said.

“As Canada commented, the purpose of the $2.8 billion settlement is not to put a value on damages caused to members of the band class, as that would be an impossible task.”

She called the settlement “transformational”, adding the settlement does not absolve the federal government from future lawsuits related to children dying or missing in residential schools.

McDonald said, “I am satisfied that the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the members of the band class. The settlement agreement is therefore approved.”

The settlement was announced in January to resolve legal action for plaintiffs representing 325 countries to address damages caused to its members by the residential school program.

community to decide the use of settlement funds

As part of the settlement, the First Nations plaintiffs agreed to “completely, finally and forever” release the Crown from claims arising from the mass damages residential schools imposed on First Nations as alleged in a previous court filing.

The agreement states that this legal release shall cover or exclude any claims that may arise on children who die or go missing while being forced to attend residential school.

The settlement now goes into an appeals period, after which the money will be transferred to a non-profit fund managed by the Board of Indigenous Leaders.

Each of the affected indigenous communities must decide what to do with their settlement funds based on the principles of the “four pillars” outlined in the agreement: the revival and protection of indigenous languages; revival and preservation of indigenous culture; conservation and promotion of heritage; and the well-being of Indigenous communities and their members.

The McDonald’s decision also stated that the funds and their income could not be used to fund individuals or commercial enterprises, must be used as collateral or as guarantees to secure loans.

Settlement ‘Meant Everything’: Plaintiffs

The suit was started more than a decade ago by former Tk’emlups te Secwépemc chief Shane Gottfriedson and former Shishel Nation chief Gary Feschuck to seek justice and compensation for day laborers who were abused while attending residential schools I went.

Like residential schools, day schools were intended to assimilate indigenous children while erasing indigenous languages ​​and cultures and often had religious affiliations. There was also widespread abuse.

Day scholars were children who attended residential schools during the day but were able to go home at night and were left out of the 2006 residential school settlement.

The suit initially consisted of a combined band repair claim (known as the band class) and a claim for residential school stipends.

The Trudeau government reached an out-of-court settlement with de Schallers in June 2021, agreeing to pay cash compensation to the survivors and their descendants, settling part of the Gottfriedson case.

But Canada initially refused to negotiate with the remaining band-compensation plaintiffs. His case was headed for trial until it was abruptly adjourned to move forward with talks scheduled for last fall, pending court approval, with a settlement announced in January.

A man speaks into a microphone.
Former Tk’emlúps Te Secwépemc chief Shane Gottfriedson, one of two plaintiffs in the case. (Canadian Press)

In February, Gottfriedson told a federal court judge in Vancouver that settling with the federal government “is everything” to him.

Gottfriedson said it was “time for Canada to separate” and let First Nations themselves decide how to mitigate the damage done by residential schools.

More details on how the funds will be distributed are expected in the coming months. Under the agreement, all 325 First Nations will receive an initial payment of $200,000, which will allow them all to draw up a 10-year plan on how they want to revive their language and culture.

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support to survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counseling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness Hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat