Landmark settlement includes more than 40 day schools attended by Inuit
Eligible Indigenous day school survivors can apply for payments ranging from $10,000 to $200,000
Inuit who in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s attended any of a list of more than 40 federal government day schools are eligible for cash compensation under a $1.3-billion settlement agreement that the Federal Court of Canada approved on Aug. 19.
The court’s decision settles a lawsuit, filed in 2009, that’s known as the “Indian Day School Class Action” or “Mclean Class Action for Federal Day Schools,” after the late Garry Leslie McLean, a federal day school survivor who launched the original statement of claim.
The federal government and lawyers representing the plaintiffs reached a proposed settlement this past March. After hearings held in May, a Federal Court approved the settlement on Monday.
The settlement compensates Indigenous people who—because they attended federal day schools—were left out of the $1.9-billion residential school settlement agreement reached in 2007.
Under the day school settlement, the federal government will put about $1.3 billion into a special corporation that will hold a fund from which compensation payments will be made to survivors.
All survivors are eligible for individual compensation of $10,000 each.
But for repeated sexual abuse or physical assault leading to long-term injury, individual survivors, depending on the degree of abuse, are eligible for payments ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
And the settlement will also create a $200-million legacy fund for commemoration projects, language and culture projects, and health and wellness programs.
The lawyers who handled the class action will get paid $55 million, and the settlement sets aside $7 million to help pay the legal costs of survivors who make claims.
How to apply
Survivors can start applying for compensation now, but payouts won’t start until 120 days after the Aug. 19 settlement date.
To make a claim, you should go to the website indiandayschools.com, download a PDF of the claims form, fill it out and send it to Gowling WLG Canada, the law firm that is acting on behalf of class action members.
Survivors will have two and a half years to make a claim. For more information, check out the FAQ section of the website.
There, you can also find a complete list of eligible schools.
Survivors may opt out
Those survivors who aren’t happy with the settlement agreement and who wish to pursue their own lawsuits may decide to opt out of the deal within 90 days of the Aug. 19 settlement date.
Survivors may do that by downloading an opt-out form here. You then fill it out, and send it by either email, fax or mail to Gowling WLG Canada.
Those survivors who do opt out will get no compensation, but they’ll retain the right to file their own lawsuits.
“Opting out is a serious and permanent decision,” Gowling WLG says on its website.
Inuit, Métis, First Nations all eligible
Despite the use of the term “Indian day schools,” all Indigenous people—Inuit, Métis or First Nations—who attended one of the listed schools is eligible for compensation payments.
“Using this word was not an easy choice, because we recognize that it has negative connotations for many people. Federal ‘Indian Day Schools’ were created under Canada’s ‘Indian Act,’ which applied to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples,” the law firm handling the class action, Gowling WLG, said on their website.
So of the more than 700 schools listed in the agreement, the number of schools likely attended by Inuit breaks down like this:
• In what is now Nunavut: 27 federal day schools, including schools that operated in communities whose populations were relocated to other places, such as Port Burwell, Padloping Island, and South Camp on the Belcher Islands.
They also include the Apex Hill and Sir Martin Frobisher federal day schools, and schools in multiple locations that over time evolved into today’s settled communities.
But to be eligible, you must have attended one of those 27 schools prior to April 1, 1970, when responsibility for those schools was transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
• In what is now Nunavik: 11 federal day schools. Most are listed under old community names that aren’t used anymore, sometimes with eccentric spellings, such as Great Whale Federal Day School (Kuujjuarapik), Wakeham Bay Government School (Kangiqsujuaq), Notre-Dame d’Ivugivik School (Ivujivik) and Inocedjouac School (Inukjuak).
In most cases, responsibility for these 11 Nunavik schools was transferred to the Kativik School Board on Sept. 1, 1978.
• In what is now the Northwest Territories: at least four federal day schools, located in Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour, Holman Island and Inuvik.
Responsibility for those schools was transferred to the GNWT on April 1, 1969.
That means former students of schools such as Gordon Robertson Education Centre in Iqaluit, Sir John Franklin School in Yellowknife, the Keewatin Regional Education Centre in Rankin Inlet and the Churchill Vocational Centre in Churchill are not eligible.
Inuit orgs critical of settlement
In Nunavik, there are an estimated 3,000 former students from 11 different schools who may be eligible for compensation.
Makivik Corp. says Nunavik Inuit with questions about eligibility can contact Makivik’s legal department at 418-522-2224, ext. 4.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., along with Makivik and the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., have criticized the settlement agreement because there is no Inuit representation on the fund that will manage compensation moneys.
NTI has also been critical of the proposed settlement’s timelines.
Last April, NTI, along with six other groups and plaintiffs, sought intervenor status in the case, but a Federal Court judge denied their application.
If you’re feeling distressed and want to talk to someone, the class action law firm suggests you call the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.