Settlement Agreement reached for former students of Indian Day Schools in Canada

Pictured: The Honorable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P. — Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.(Photo: canada.ca/)

Proposed settlement agreement includes $10,000 in individual compensation for thousands of Indigenous people; those who experienced physical and sexual abuse eligible for additional compensation

News Release

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada 

The Government of Canada is continuing the work of righting past wrongs, especially those involving Indigenous children, by resolving Childhood Claims through negotiation rather than litigation.

On March 12, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, along with Claudette Commanda and Roger Augustine, announced that parties have reached a proposed settlement agreement recognizing the harms suffered by former students of Indian Day Schools.

The proposed settlement agreement includes $10,000 in individual compensation for thousands of Indigenous people who suffered harm while attending federally operated Indian Day Schools. Those who experienced physical and sexual abuse are eligible for additional compensation, with amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 based on the severity of the abuses suffered.

The proposed settlement agreement also provides an investment of $200 million to the McLean Day School Settlement Corporation for Legacy Projects that support healing, wellness, education, language, culture, and commemoration for class members and their communities.

The Government of Canada is proud of the work accomplished together with former students and their counsel in reaching this proposed settlement agreement. We will continue to work with survivors and Indigenous partners to advance reconciliation, promote Indigenous languages and culture, and support the healing and commemoration of those affected by the harmful policies of the past.

"Today marks a historic step forward, as we have reached a proposed settlement agreement for former students of Indian Day Schools. This truly is an example of the type of work we can accomplish together when we negotiate rather than litigate resolution of Childhood Claims. It wouldn't have been possible without the tireless leadership, advocacy, and commitment to justice demonstrated by the class members. Canada is committed to righting historical wrongs, and will continue to work with survivors in the spirit of healing, commemoration, and reconciliation."

The Honorable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

I was six years old when I attended the Congway School. I was excited and happy on the first day of school because I would meet new friends. My excitement turned to fear because the teacher was very strict and very mean to the children. From that day on, each school day, I would dread going to school because I feared the teacher. I was repeatedly physically abused. She would hit us with a ruler if we were not sitting properly or if she did not like the way we looked or spoke. We were punished if we spoke Algonquin. We were called "savages". She constantly told me I was lazy and would not amount to anything good. I felt helpless and the fear walked with me for a long time. I want the world to know the abuse suffered by First Nation children in the Canadian government's 'school' system. First Nation children and Inuit children experienced hardships in government-run day schools, our truths must be told. No child should experience suffering and pain because of the color of their skin or culture."

Claudette Commanda, Class Member

Quick Facts

  • Beginning in the 1920s, close to 200,000 Indigenous children attended over 700 federally operated Indian Day Schools. Many students who attended these schools experienced trauma, and in some cases, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of individuals entrusted with their care.
  • The proposed settlement agreement demonstrates Canada commitment to fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. In particular, Call to Action 29 calls on the federal government, to work collaboratively with plaintiffs not included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to have disputed legal issues determined expeditiously on an agreed set of facts.
  • Further information about the proposed settlement, including how class members can register their support or objection to the proposed settlement agreement will be made available in the coming days.

Related 

Backgrounder

Indian Day Schools (McLean) Proposed Settlement Agreement

The mistreatment of Indigenous children by successive Canadian governments has left a tragic legacy that we still see today. Canada deeply regrets its past actions and policies that denied Indigenous children their languages and culture and is committed to reconciliation and laying the foundation for multi-generational healing.

Beginning in the 1920s, close to 200,000 Indigenous children attended federally operated Indian Day Schools. Many students who attended these schools experienced trauma, and in some cases, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of individuals entrusted with their care.

Originally filed in 2009 on behalf of Indigenous people (and their families) who attended an Indian Day School, Garry Leslie McLean et al v. Attorney General of Canada was certified by the Federal Court of Canada on June 21, 2018. Over the past several months, the Government of Canada and the parties have been engaged in negotiations with the goal of resolving this litigation in a fair, compassionate, and respectful manner that combines individual compensation with forward-looking investments.

The proposed settlement agreement represents a historic step toward resolving this litigation and demonstrates Canada's commitment to righting historical wrongs through negotiation rather than litigation; it allows parties to go beyond the remedies that can be granted by the courts and to explore concrete ways to address healing, language, culture and commemoration.

The key elements of the proposed settlement agreement are as follows:

  • Individual compensation of $10,000 for harms associated with attendance at an Indian Day School;
  • Compensation for incidents of physical and sexual abuse, with amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 based on the severity of the abuses suffered; and
  • A $200 million investment to the McLean Day School Settlement Corporation for Legacy Projects that support healing, wellness, education, language, culture, and commemoration;
  • $55 million in funding for legal fees. Plaintiffs' counsel have committed that they will not seek additional legal costs from payments made to class members in order to ensure that compensation intended for plaintiffs is preserved for them; and
  • $7 million in separate legal fees to be made available to class counsel to support additional legal work on behalf of class members.

Further information about the proposed settlement, including how class members can register their support or objection to the proposed settlement agreement will be made available in the coming days.

Canada will continue to work with survivors and Indigenous partners to advance reconciliation and support the healing and commemoration of those affected by the harmful policies of the past.

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