OHSWEKEN — A class action settlement for Canada’s church-and-state run federal Indian Day Schools is open to some former elementary school students at Six Nations and New Credit.
Compensation was announced by Indigenous-Crown Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in March.
Former students who are part of the class action would receive basic personal compensation of $10,000 each under the terms of the settlement, while those who experienced physical and sexual abuse at the schools would also be eligible for additional compensation of between $50,000 and $200,000, Bennett said.
The settlement is being negotiated by Gowling WLG. Former students can register online to express support or objection that will be heard by the courts ahead of settlement Aprroval Hearings by May 3.
People can register for the class to receive ongoing updates about the case. Claims for compensation, if it is approved by the courts, will take place some time after the May 3 hearings.
Bennett says the settlement is part of Canada’s committment to righting historical wrongs in the spirit of reconciliation.
“This agreement will bring us one step closer to a lasting and meaningful resolution for survivors … of this dark and tragic chapter in Canada’s history,” she said.
The proposed settlement follows discussions between the government and parties to the suit, which was originally filed in 2009 on behalf of Indigenous people and their families who attended Indian Day Schools, which began operating across Canada in the 1920s.
Nearly 200,000 Indigenous children attended more than 700 federally operated Indian Day Schools, where many endured trauma, including physical and sexual abuse. The government estimates that between 120,000 and 140,000 former students may end up taking part in the class action.
The schools operated separately from the more infamous residential school system, and were not included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement approved in 2006.
Many Canadians are aware of the tragic legacy of residential schools, but not of the day schools, Bennett said.
“Although children who attended Indian Day Schools did leave school at the end of the day, many students experienced trauma and were subject to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of individuals who had been entrusted with their care,” Bennett said.
“Due to government policies, children were denied the opportunity to speak their language and were forced to abandon their culture.”
Before approving the settlement, the court will consider comments made by the members of the class action, submissions made by their legal counsel and the government to determine whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interest of the class members.
Harms continue to be passed down through generations of Indigenous families and communities, Bennett said.
“It is my sincere hope that this will be the start of a successful healing process for all of those involved.’’
Several local schools which were affiliated with church bodies in Canada are listed under the federal day schools settlement.
Tyendinaga’s numbered elementary schools 1-4 Central, Eastern and Western were affiliated with the Anglican Church and ran from 1882 to 1967. Mission school was a Roman Catholic affiliated school and ran from 1883 to 1956.
Oneida Nation of the Thames four numbered elementary schools are included. Oneida No.1 from 1864 – 1968, Oneida No.2 from 1873 – 1968, Oneida No.3 from 1882 – 1968 and Oneida No.4 from 1951 – 1968. The United and Anglican churches shared affiliation with those schools for the duration of their operation. The Standing Stone school is included and operated on Oneida Nation of the Thames from 1968 to 1993. It is not affiliated with a church.
Six Nations numbered elementary schools 1-12 are included in the federal day schools list. All of them were affiliated with the Anglican Church and operated from the late 1800s through to the late 1980s, some as late as 1990. All of the numbered elementary schools were closed in a community-wide boycott after it was discovered they were contaminated with asbestos.
Jamieson School and J.C. Hill Elementary/Ohsweken Central are included in the list, affiliated with the Anglican Church which ceased in 1990. The schools are still open today but are no longer church and state run.
Oliver M. Smith, Emily C. General and I.L Thomas Schools are on the list for the year 1990. These schools have no history of church affiliation.
Mississaugas of the Credit has two schools listed; New Credit School from 1957 – 1994 and New Credit Central from 1957 – 1960. Both were affiliated with the Anglican Church.
Former students can register to become part of the class or to express support or objection ahead of the Approval Hearings on May 3rd opt online at https://ca.gowlingwlg.com/dayschoolclassaction/ or call 1-844-539-3815.
The website for the class action settlement notes that registering for the class is not the same as making a claim for compensation. When the claims process begins, former students will then need to fill out a claim form to receive compensation.
(with CP files)