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$2.8-billion settlement in Tk’emlúps-led residential school lawsuit

The federal government has agreed to pay into a new trust fund that will operate for 20 years, pending Federal Court approval of the deal
SB Kamloops Indian Residential School June 28 2022
The former Kamloops Indian Residential School operated from 1890 to 1969, then from 1969 to 1978 as a school for day scholars.

A residential school-related class-action lawsuit against the federal government, launched by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and the shíshálh Nation in Sechelt in 2012, has been settled.

The federal government has agreed to pay $2.8 billion into a new trust fund that will operate for 20 years, pending Federal Court approval of the deal.

The lawsuit, known as the Gottfriedson Band Class, was launched by then-Tk’emlúps chief Shane Gottfriedson and the shíshálh Nation in a bid to seek reparations for the loss of language and culture brought on by Indian residential schools, including the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The $2.8-billion fund will be run independent of the federal government. It will be governed by a board of nine Indigenous directors, one of whom will be chosen by the federal government.

In exchange, the claimants agreed to "fully, finally and forever" release the Crown from claims that could conceivably arise from the collective harms residential schools inflicted on First Nations, as alleged in a previous court filing.

“Our nations started this lawsuit because we saw the devastating impacts that residential schools had on our nations as a whole,” Gottfriedson said as news of the settlement was released. “The residential school system decimated our languages, profoundly damaged our cultures and left a legacy of social harms. The effects go beyond my generation. It will take many generations for us to heal. This settlement is about taking steps towards undoing the damage that was done to our nations."

Garry Feschuk, former chief of the shíshálh Nation, added: "It has taken Canada far too long to own up to its history, own up to the genocide it committed and recognize the collective harm caused to our nations by residential schools. It is time that Canada not only recognizes this harm, but helps undo it by walking with us. This settlement is a good first step."

Current Tk’emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said Canada spent more than a century trying to destroy First Nations languages and cultures through residential schools.

“Canada did not succeed, but it did cause profound damage,” Casimir said. “It is going to take incredible efforts by our Nations to restore our languages and culture. This settlement gives Nations the resources and tools needed to make a good start."

Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the federal government believes all residential school survivors deserve justice and compensation.

“As we finalize this settlement, we are reminded of the importance of collaborative dialogue and partnership in resolving historic grievances outside of the court system,” Miller said. “Together, we have developed a settlement that will support the band class members in their healing journeys for generations to come."

This settlement builds on the 2021 Gottfriedson Day Scholars settlement. That settlement provides compensation to the thousands of students who attended an Indian residential school, but did not reside at the institution, and who were alive as of May 30, 2005.

Under the terms of that agreement, all eligible day scholars will receive $10,000 in individual compensation for attending an Indian residential school as a day scholar.

According to the federal government, between 12,000 and 20,000 day scholars were alive as of May 30, 2005.

The settlement also provides $50 million toward the creation of the Day Scholars Revitalization Society, an Indigenous-led not-for-profit corporation to support healing, wellness, education, language, culture, heritage and commemoration activities.