By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A class-action lawsuit against the government demanding it be held accountable for the horrors experienced by Indigenous day scholars at Residential Schools was finally approved in Federal Court last Thursday.
The $2.8-billion settlement makes reparations for Indigenous day scholars abused while attending Residential Schools.
Justice Ann Marie McDonald said in her ruling issued Thursday that the settlement is intended to help to reverse the losses of Indigenous language and culture from students that robbed them of their heritage.
“This settlement is historic both in terms of the quantum of the settlement and its unique structure,” McDonald said. “As Canada remarked, the $2.8-billion settlement is not intended to put a value on the losses suffered by the Band Class members, as that is an impossible task.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller said the settlement is another step forward in the relationship between Indigenous communities and the federal government.
“Canada welcomes the Federal Court approval of the Gottfriedson Band class settlement agreement,” Miller said. “Through this settlement, Canada will transfer $2.8 billion into an Indigenous-led trust to allow for communities that have opted in to the class action to support work around the revitalization of Indigenous language and culture. This settlement is not intended to place a value on the losses, but instead is a step forward in rebuilding our relationship with Indigenous peoples.”
Miller added the horrors of Residential Schools continue to revisit trauma on Indigenous communities and that it represents a “significant milestone.”
“Residential Schools are part of Canada’s history, even recent history, and they continue to have devastating effects across the country. Part of this horrific legacy is the loss of Indigenous culture, knowledge and traditions, he said. “This settlement agreement and the Federal Court’s decision are a significant milestone because it supports communities as they determine what’s best for them and how they want to address this loss and start the healing process.”
Miller said the settlement is also aimed at helping to revitalize the Indigenous languages and identities that were robbed of children attending Residential Schools. The last Residential School in Canada closed in 1996.
“This settlement aims to revitalize Indigenous language, culture, and heritage to support communities in healing, and to renew Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples. However, this in no way means that our work is done, or that all Indigenous communities that had children ripped from their families will be compensated through this settlement,” he said.
Now, there will be two 30-day appeal periods, after which Canada has 30 days to transfer the funds to an Indigenous-held trust.
Each Band Class member will receive $200,000 immediately for the purposes of developing a plan to carry out one or more the objectives of the settlement, which are: the revival and protection of Indigenous languages, the revival and protection of Indigenous cultures, the protection and promotion of heritage, and the wellness of Indigenous communities and their members.
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded.