Polly Jack directs national Aboriginal leader Phil Fontaine to his seat at a meeting on the subject of Indian Day Schools in Duncan in 2011. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Indian Day School students eligible for $10K apiece

Islanders included in settlement package reached with Canada’s federal government

First Nations people who attended Indian Day Schools may be in line for a financial settlement.

Everyone who attended an Indian Day School that was “established, funded, controlled and managed by the Government of Canada and suffered harm as a consequence of their Indian Day School attendance” are included under the agreement, and could each get $10,000 if they pass the criteria.

Duncan’s Polly Jack, who has been trying to help former day school students in the Cowichan Valley to get involved with the process, told the Citizen March 14 that she was delighted with the result.

“People can get forms online or go into a local band office and request a form. To me, because I’ve been doing forms since it started, and because there’s a resolution coming to it, the pain and suffering they endured is being noticed. The culture and not being able to speak our language in school. There’s justice for our people now. I think this is a real celebration,” she said.

The Government of Canada said last week that, in “continuing the work of righting past wrongs, especially those involving Indigenous children,” there’s hope at the end of the tunnel for the many survivors of these schools, after years of trying to find a solution.

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

According to a statement released by the ministry, this 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 minister was pleased that this long-standing discussion is reaching an end.

“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,” Bennett said.. Canada is committed to righting historical wrongs, and will continue to work with survivors in the spirit of healing, commemoration and reconciliation.”

Beginning in the 1920s, according to federal government figures, 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,” states the government release.

Further information about the proposed settlement, including how class members can register their support or objection to the proposed settlement agreement, is available here.

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