The government has reached a proposed settlement with former Indian Day Schools students that would compensate each survivor $10,000, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced Tuesday.
Those who experienced physical and sexual abuse at the schools are also eligible for additional compensation of between $50,000 and $200,000 based on severity.
Bennett called the proposed agreement a historic step forward, adding Canada is committed 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,” Bennett said.
The proposed settlement follows discussions between the government and parties in a class action lawsuit originally filed in 2009 on behalf of Indigenous people and their families who attended Indian Day Schools.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Garry McLean, died of cancer about one month ago.
“We are all so sad that he didn’t live to see this day,” Bennett said, acknowledging that his “courage” and “advocacy” paved the way for the settlement.
Nearly 200,000 Indigenous children attended more than 700 federally operated Indian Day Schools beginning in the 1920s, where many endured trauma, including, in some cases, physical and sexual abuse.
Indian Day Schools operated separately from the Indian Residential Schools system and were not included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement approved in 2006.
Many Canadians are aware of the tragic legacy of Indian Residential Schools, Bennett said, but many still do not know the history of the Indian Day Schools.
“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.”
Harms continue to be passed down through generations of Indigenous families and communities, she said.
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, Bennett said.
“It is my sincere hope that this will be the start of a successful healing process for all of those involved,” she said.
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press