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HomeWorld NewsFeds Settle Residential School Day Student Class-Action Lawsuit for $2.8 Billion

Feds Settle Residential School Day Student Class-Action Lawsuit for $2.8 Billion

The federal government on Jan. 21 announced it would pay $2.8 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by members of two B.C. First Nations bands seeking compensation for students who attended residential schools as day scholars.

Day scholars refer to students who attended residential schools during the day and returned home each day, as distinguished from students who resided at the schools.

The lawsuit, known as the Gottfriedson case, was filed in 2012 by then-Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc chief Shane Gottfriedson and then-shíshálh chief Garry Feschuk on behalf of day scholars and their descendants, representing 325 First Nations that opted to participate.

The legal action claimed that the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) “destroyed [the day scholars’ and their descendants’] language and culture, violated their cultural and linguistic rights, and caused psychological harms.”

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the settlement just signed was for “unfinished business” from an earlier settlement in 2021, making this the second of two agreements under the lawsuit.

“While settlements that are being announced like these today do not erase or make up for the past … what it can do is help address the collective harm caused by Canada’s past—a deeply colonial one—in the loss of language, the loss of culture, and the loss of heritage,” said Miller.

Millar said the $2.8 billion will be held in a not-for-profit trust fund that will operate independent of the government.

The settlement applies specifically to IRS day-scholar students, who were not eligible for a 2006 settlement that applied only to IRS live-in students, which was made under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

The agreement must still receive Federal Court approval between Feb. 27 and March 1, followed by an appeal period, before the money is released and transferred to the trust fund.

The funds are intended to be used to promote and protect indigenous language, culture, heritage, and the wellness of First Nations communities.

Miller said this is the first time Canada is providing compensation to indigenous bands and communities as a whole for harms caused by residential schools.

Individual First Nations bands will develop 10-year implementation plans to use and disperse the funds.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

Marnie Cathcart

Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.

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