Pondering class-action lawsuit for the 'forgotten' victims
They may be the forgotten individuals of the national tragedy that was the native residential-school policy in Canada.
They are known as "day scholars", First Nations members who attended residential schools during the day, but went home to their families at night.
However, they have been said to have suffered the same abuses as their counterparts who lived in the schools.
Now, several native bands from throughout the province have come together to look at legal options to get compensation for day scholars, which could include a class-action lawsuit against the federal and provincial governments.
The bands are hoping to put pressure on government to address the issue in the same way it did with residential-school survivors.
The Tk'emlups Indian Band (TIB) is taking the lead role on the issue and has met with several other First Nations leaders during the last five months.
"Definitely, the Tk'emlups Indian Band will be advancing something on behalf of its people," TIB Chief Shane Gottfriedson said.
He said he has heard "pretty drastic" stories from the day students, noting there are about 70 living band members who would be considered day scholars.
Though he couldn't give a dollar amount for compensation being sought, Gottfriedson said the band is talking to its legal counsel around a timeline for launching the suit.
Other bands in the province are also looking to take part.
Sechelt Indian Band Chief Garry Feschuk said the Sunshine Coast community is anxious to see some movement on the issue, noting there are about 125 members in that band considered day scholars.
"We went through all the same abuses that everyone else did and the same harms, and we're still living with those effects in the community," he said.
In 2008, the federal government offered an apology to residential-school survivors, along with $1.9 billion in compensation, but bands argue day scholars were left out of the settlement.
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said time is running out for the survivors, as many of the victims are getting old.
"We need to move as quickly as possible on this," he said, adding the hope is the lawsuit will force the senior levels of government to come to the table and talk with the group.
It is believed much of the abuse took place between the 1950s and 1970s.