Federal Court approves plan to distribute $2.8-billion residential day school settlement
Warning: This story contains details about residential day schools that may trigger unpleasant feelings or thoughts of past abuse. If you or someone you know requires emotional support, please contact the 24-hour Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
Canada’s Federal Court approved a settlement agreement between the federal government and 325 First Nations whose members filed a class-action lawsuit over the harms they survived at residential day schools.
In January, the federal government settled a class-action lawsuit over the harms of residential day schools out of court for $2.8 billion. Now, a Federal Court justice has approved the agreement along with a plan to distribute the money. In her decision, Justice Ann Marie McDonald called the settlement “historic.”
In the decision, the Federal Court ruled after two 30-day appeal periods, the Canadian government will have 30 additional days before it is expected to transfer funds to a non-profit trust led by First Nations.
The funding is expected to be used for the revival and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ language and culture, the protection and promotion of heritage and the wellness of Indigenous communities and their members. These guidelines, also called the settlement’s four pillars, were developed by the class action’s representative plaintiff.
Each of the bands in the class action is supposed to receive $200,000 so they may develop a proposal for further funding. Then, the trust is expected to pay bands a portion of the $325 million allocated as a “kick-start fund.”
The trust is also expected to give each band involved a share of its available annual investment income.
Indian residential day schools separated First Nations children from their homes and indigeneity, and operated from the 1800s to as late as 2000. Survivors of the residential day schools filed a class-action lawsuit against the government for the collective harms the policy caused. Then, the government agreed to settle out of court.
This is the second settlement to compensate survivors of residential day schools. The first, in 2021, distributed compensation to individual day scholars. Now, First Nations will be compensated for the way residential day schools eroded their language, culture and heritage.
On March 13, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announced the Federal Court approved the settlement, which was named after former Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Shane Gottfriedson.
“Canada welcomes the Federal Court approval of the Gottfriedson Band class settlement agreement,” Miller said in a press release. “This settlement is not intended to place a value on the losses, but instead is a step forward in rebuilding our relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
— With files from Matteo Cimarello
Isaac Phan Nay / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative
Isaac Phan Nay, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada's National Observer