A historic class action lawsuit by people who attended Indian Residential Schools as “day scholars” has begun to spread across Canada, bringing the total to 76 bands alleging widespread abuse.

Only a day after British Columbia’s Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and Sechelt First Nations filed their case against the federal government on behalf of survivors and their descendents who were excluded from full compensation under a 2006 abuse settlement, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) added its name to the lawsuit.

“The Indian Day Scholar survivors suffered the same injustices as the Indian Residential School survivors,” said FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat in a statement. “Many of them suffered abuse and a loss of language and culture. We estimate there are more than 4,000 Indian Day Scholar survivors in Saskatchewan waiting for past wrongs to be righted.”

Representing 74 First Nations in the prairie province, the Saskatchewan group’s addition suggests that many more could join the case against Canada’s nearly 160 Residential Schools, which operated from the 1870s through 1996.

But more than simply demanding compensation for sexual, physical and emotional abuse reported in the schools—which was already available to day scholars under the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA)—this lawsuit demands unspecified damages based on daytime students’ “common experiences” of suffering, which is compensation that residents received.

The class action case alleges that the schools served as an intentional means of destroying Native culture, amounting to genocide, said Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs President Stewart Phillip. They thus paved the way for the “exploitation of those lands and resources by Canada,” according to court filings.

According to the federal government, the 2006 settlement agreement was the result of negotiations with claimants and First Nations leadership, and therefore it is not obligated to compensate non-residential students.

“It was a government assertion at that time that they didn’t suffer the same as residential school survivors,” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “Whether a day scholar or resident, students received similar sorts of abuses, deep trauma and physical harm. [The IRSSA] could never fully provide for complete justice for the wrongs that our people have had committed against them—for our experience in the residential schools, for the loss of our land, and the taking away of our wealth and resources.”

One of the band leaders initiating the lawsuit said the Canadian government had refused to address the issue of day scholars when approached, and therefore a lawsuit seeking “punitive and aggravated damages” was the last resort.

“There are numerous times that Sechelt and Kamloops have contacted Canada to do the right thing,” said Chief Garry Feschuk, head of the Sechelt Indian Band. “There was enough money in the first settlement to resolve the day scholar issue, but they rejected us. We sent another letter to the Prime Minister asking him to do the right thing; again, we were rejected. So our only alternative now is to fight them, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

And while Feschuk lamented that “all the wounds came to the surface again,” an event celebrating the lawsuit’s launch in Tsleil-Waututh First Nation revealed both pain, and the hope for justice.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity of seeking seeking redress for our people,” said Chief Shane Gottfriedson, leader of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation. “I know it’s going to be a challenging process; but being a real Indian, what is ever easy for us? Everything that we’ve tried to do throughout our history has always been a fight. We’re not into talking about anything anymore.”

The court documents filed by plaintiff lawyers argue that Canada showed “wanton and reckless disregard” for indigenous children and severed “aboriginal people from their cultures, traditions and ultimately their lands and resources.”  (SOURCE)

Responses to "Residential School Day Scholars Launch Canada-Wide Lawsuit Against Abuse, ‘Genocide’ "

  1. I hurt, why? I wish that I had the teachings of my mother and father, Than again what was there era like? What did they suffer or how did they suffer? I now allow my tears to flow freely and am now allowed to express my anger or share. Just for now it is one day at a time, and one day at a time with out the aid of alcohol that uses to give me my opportunity's to cry and laugh. Thank you

  2. It's an awful prejudice ! Nobody deserve that ! I'm not from any First Nation, I'm just French, and I'm against injustices, genocides, discriminations... How repare all these horrors ?
    Courage ! I find your fight right and just !
    Friendly, from other sea,

  3. Anonymous says:

    (*_*) I truly hope you win,

  4. Anonymous says:

    Change is happening, slowly but there seems to be a subtle groundswell.

    More and more of us white folk are now getting the message, not just about the history we were not taught, but of the beauty of the diverse cultures from First Nations people.

    Last March I participated in a 3 days Aboriginal and Mental Health workshop (Crawford Lake,in Ontario which blew me away.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Do you know..that there's a lot of White people out there today! that still have no idea about the residential school or what happened in them, with the first nation people!?..exactly what do they learn in school History classes? for the justice part..most of our elders that had to live through that abuse are gone! and whats left are the dismissed!..the children of the abused. We won't see anything from any one..even though *we* were brought up by a abuser or a alcoholic family ourselves..remember what goes around comes around! Its a crime that justice has to take so long in Canada, especially for the FIRST NATION.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I finally see the day! You go Native nation! CAN ANYONE HELP ME IN MY SEARCH? In the late 60's or 70's a plane full of native Canadian children who were forced into residential schools, went down killing all the children on board. I felt deep sadness, pain for the families. I felt anger for the terrible abuse & injustice to the children & families.I have searched but it has been written out of the history books. I know it happened bcs I wrote a song about it at the time.Young & dumb, I didn't date the song. I wanted to share it with the families. I wanted to let them know that someone, even tho white, cared & remember. But haven't been able to find them or anyone who remembers the tragic crash or even find a newspaper article or anything about it. A huge number of children died that day. I think about 50 (just a guess) How could they be forgotten? How could all those children & families be totally written out of history? I'm not a big mover & shaker. Just a guilt ridden white girl who felt powerless & & did nothing more than cry at the time. I remember wishing I could do something. I only wrote a song. Now I just want to give them the song & let the families know somebody cares; someone remembers even if history forgets. If anyone knows anything about that terrible plane crash, pls email me
    I am a white girl who marched on Manitoba Parliament about 40 years ago, with my 2 year old son & my native sisters & brothers. As they waited beating their drums & shivering in the cold, I ran from office to office & yelled at our "elected representatives" & shamed them into allowing our cold, wet, sick people into the warm, lavish stone halls paid for by all of us. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. I went on tv., a lone white girl trying to explain the plight of the marchers. Then I went home to my middle class centrally heated house where I took flack from my then husband. Then rather than stand up to my husband, I backed down from the cause & did little else. I joined what I see as the universal guilt of white people for the genocide committed on my red siblings. I knew what was happening. I stood by. I did not take action. I listened to my husband instead of my heart. By not taking action, I share guilt just as if I had participated. By doing nothing I did participate in the horrible genocide.
    I still have the song waiting to be sung; tears waiting to be shared in mourning & caring in sisterhood & brotherhood. I wish I had done more then. I hope its not too late now, not to expiate my guilt. There is no forgiveness for what I did not do at the time. I just want the families to know that I remember. I care. We will never know what was lost to us on that day. Which of those children may have cured cancer, heart disease or given life & love to another child who would grow to contribute beautiful music, poetry to this world. the list is endles. We lost it in one day while we forced those chidren out of their homes, away from their families. I will never forget the beautiful little souls lost on that tragic day. We all share guilt when we stand by & allow evil to happen.
    InventingJoy caringpro@gmail.

  7. Anonymous says:

    my heart goes out to all the abused survivors.KEEP FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE and and the government will pay what is due for all involved in this lawsuit.

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