Nation-Based Sovereign-Based Government

The Federal Indian Day School Class Action

January 17, 2020

Treaty 2 Territory – From the late 1800’s up until 2000, there were almost 700 Indian Day Schools across Canada. Approximately 115 of those schools were in Manitoba. In 1920, First Nations children were required by Canada’s law (Indian Act) to attend these schools. Indian Day Schools were established, funded, controlled, and managed by Canada. Many abuses and harms were experienced by the students attending these schools. The 2006 Indian Residential School Settlement did not include these students.

These schools functioned with the same agenda as residential schools in that they focused on assimilating Indigenous children. They were taught that their way of life including their culture and spirituality was of no value. In turn, many children came to feel ashamed of who they were and where they came from. The schools failed to meet the government’s fiduciary obligations to First Nations and they infringed on Aboriginal rights; that is, the unique rights stemming from inherent rights to identity, spirituality, language and culture. It has been estimated that 190,000 Indigenous children attended these schools.

McLean vs. Canada became a certified class action proceeding on June 21, 2018. It was initiated in 2009 by lead plaintiff, Gary McLean, in 2009. A class action is when one or more people (plaintiffs) sue on behalf of others who have similar claims (class members). With this, the court works to resolve the issue for everyone who was affected—except those who may remove themselves (opt out). 

Eligible survivor class members must have attended at least one of the identified Indian day schools during the time it was operated and/or controlled by Canada (from January 1, 1920 to the date of closure of the school or when control may have been given to the First Nation). Claimants must have experienced a recognized harm due to their attendance. Compensation ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 is based on five levels. An assessment grid based on severity of harm with each level requiring verification is available to claimants. Immediate family and/or estates can make a claim on a former student’s behalf if he or she passed on or after July 31, 2007. There is also a Legacy Fund of $200 million that was created to recognize that harm was also experienced by families and communities. The Legacy Fund will support commemoration projects, health and wellness projects, and language and culture initiatives. 

Claim forms became available on January 13, 2020 on the Federal Indian Day School Class Action website: http://www.indiandayschools.com. Claim forms can be submitted until July 13, 2022.

The National Law Firm, Gowling WLG, is counsel to the class and is working with the Claims Administrator, Deloitte. Gowling WLG is recognized for its work on behalf of First Nations and Aboriginal organizations and they are available for free legal support. There is no charge to speak to them or to receive help in filling out claim forms. Phone: 1-888-221-2898 or email dayschools@gowlingwlg.com. None of the class counsel fees will come from class member compensation or from the legacy fund.

There is counselling and crisis support available to class members through the Hope for Wellness Hotline at 1-855-242-3310. They also have an online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca. And they have counselling available in Ojibwe.

More information including claim form and a list of approved day schools is available on the Federal Indian Day School Class Action website:

www.indiandayschools.com

You can also learn more about the plaintiffs of this class action—Garry McLean, Roger Augustine, Claudette Commanda, Angela Sampson, Margaret Swan, and Mariette Buckshot—on the website. 

Last modified: January 17, 2020

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