A settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government involving hundreds of First Nations people left out of residential-school compensation.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and Sechelt Indian Band together filed a day scholar class action in the Federal Court in August 2012. The main damages being claimed were loss of culture, linguistic and social damages, as well as exemplary and punitive damages such as loss of economic opportunity, loss of educational opportunities and compensation.
Day scholars attended the same residential schools where many Aboriginal students suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse, but day scholars returned home at the end of each school day. Day scholars were not included as part of the 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement of about $3 billion.
On Wednesday (June 9), Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the settlement will see each survivor receive $10,000 in compensation. In addition, the federal government will place $50 million in a Day Scholars Revitalization Fund.
“I suffered a lot as a day scholar at Kamloops Indian Residential School. I was taught to feel that I did not belong with Secwépemc people practising my culture and traditions and became disconnected from my family and community,” said Diena Jules of Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc. Jules was a day scholar at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and a plaintiff in the class action lawsuit.
“I lost my language, my cultural pride and my own identity. I am proud that we stood up for ourselves and for our people, and that now, after many years, our experiences are being recognized and compensated.”
Charlotte Gilbert is another day scholar and plaintiff from Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc.
"To me, this settlement means Canada is finally recognizing that day scholars also suffered at residential schools,” Gilbert said. “We are finally glad to see this recognition 15 years after the residential school settlement."
All day scholars who were alive as of May 30, 2005, are included in the settlement. In cases where a day scholar has died since May 30, 2005, their families or estates are able to apply on their behalf. The settlement covers day scholars who attended numerous residential schools across Canada, including day scholars who went to the Kamloops Indian Residential School between Jan. 1, 1920, and Aug. 31, 1969.
Before compensation can begin, the Federal Court must first determine if the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of class action members. A settlement approval hearing is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7.
This proposed settlement does not affect the claims of the band class regarding the collective losses suffered by Indigenous communities as a result of the destruction of language and culture caused by residential schools. Those claims will continue to trial in the latter half of 2022.