Native Americans Sue Canada for School Abuses

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – Canada unfairly excluded from a monetary settlement Native American students who suffered abuse at residential schools, but did not live at them, according to a federal class action.
     Two Native American bands claim Canada unconstitutionally excluded people harmed by residential schools from a settlement reached in 2006.
     By their chiefs, members of the Tk’emlups Te Secwepemc Indian Band and the Sechelt Indian Band claim that Canada’s residential school policy “was designed to eradicate Aboriginal culture and identity and assimilate the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada into Euro-Canadian Society.”
     “Through this policy, Canada ripped away the foundations of identity for generations of Aboriginal People and caused incalculable harm to both individuals and communities,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs propose the action be based on three classes, one for survivors, one for descendants of victims, and one on behalf of entire native bands.
     While the government has recognized the harm done by residential schools, where students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, a “pan-Canadian” settlement implemented in 2007 wrongfully excluded so-called “day-scholars,” who attended the schools but were not live-in students, according to the complaint.
     Established before 1874, the last residential school was closed in 1997.
     Attending a residential school became mandatory in 1920 for native children age 7 to 15, the complaint states. Students “were confined and deprived of their heritage, their support networks and their way of life, forced to adopt a foreign language and culture alien to them and punished for noncompliance,” the complaint states.
     After acknowledging the harm, Canada agreed in May 2006 to settle with abuse victims who were residential students. Compensation was doled out through a “Common Experience Payment” of $10,000 for the first year and $3,000 for each additional year “of residence at a Residential School,” according to the complaint.
     But the government refused to compensate members of the “Survivor Class,” who attended the schools but didn’t “reside there.”
     The Canadian government formally apologized to residential school victims in 2008, but excluding groups of people harmed by the schools “reflects Canada’s continued failure” to compensate all those affected, the plaintiffs claim.
     “Canada continues, as it did from the 1970s until 2006 with respect to ‘residential students,’ to deny the damage suffered by the individual plaintiffs and the members of the Survivor, Descendant and Band classes,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Len Marchand, with Fulton & Co. of Kamloops, B.C., Peter R. Grant in Vancouver, and John K. Phillips in Toronto.

%d bloggers like this: