January 4, 2021

This is the first of a series of Anishinabek News articles discussing the Indian Day School settlement process. For more information about the Indian Day Schools, please reference “Indian day school survivors are seeking truth and justice

By Alain Bartleman

11 years after Garry McLean launched his class action lawsuit on behalf of those who suffered abuse at Federal Indian Day Schools, compensation is finally coming. For Survivors of the Indian Day School system, or IDS, and for those who may be asked to assist Survivors or Estate Representatives, Anishinabek News is publishing a series of informational articles intended to bring clarity to the settlement process. These articles address topics such as accessing compensation for persons who died after July 2007, potential claims against the Provincial Government and religious authorities, and whether to use your own legal counsel or lawyer. If you are a Survivor of an IDS, you have access to a free telephone hotline that can provide advice on the settlement process. You may reach it at 1 (888) 221-2898. Alternatively, Survivors and Estate Representatives may also contact Gowling W.L.G., the law firm that represents the claimants, at no charge to themselves.

A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit in which an individual, known as the representative plaintiff, sues on behalf of a defined group of individuals, known as a “class”, who are linked together by a common trait. In this case, the “class” consists of persons who attended a Federal Indian Day School. A complete list of the schools in question can be found here. The class also includes the estates of those persons who attended an IDS, but died either on or after July 31, 2007. The Anishinabek News will be publishing another article, covering how an estate can claim compensation for a family member who suffered abuse at an IDS, over the holiday break. Persons who do not know if they are a member of the class can also call Gowling W.L.G. at 1 (844) 539-3815 at no charge to themselves.

Unlike most lawsuits, where persons must opt into a claim to be listed as plaintiffs, in a class action, persons are deemed to be in it unless they opt-out. Members of a class can either opt-out of the lawsuit or be deemed to have opted out. While opting out of a class action lawsuit preserves one’s right to sue the defendant of the original claim, it also removes the right for a person to obtain compensation along with the members of his or her class. Here, if a Survivor attended a scheduled IDS, that Survivor must have opted-out of the settlement agreement by November 18, 2019, or alternatively, have launched and not discontinued (meaning formally abandoned) a claim against the Government of Canada by November 18, 2019. It is important to note that this class action only covers claims made against the federal government for having run the schools listed in the link above. Nothing prevents claims against provincial governments or religious institutions such as the Catholic Church or United Church for similar facts. Launching a claim against those institutions will not mean that a Survivor will be deemed to have opted-out of the IDS settlement process, and will not impact that Survivor’s right to compensation under the IDS settlement process.

The Federal Court of Canada accepted Canada’s settlement offer of paying Survivors compensation ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. The amount of the compensation paid will depend on the type of abuse that an individual suffered while at IDS. Canada has also promised to invest $200 million in the “McLean Day School Settlement Corporation”, a corporation that provides, in the words of Indigenous Services Canada, “healing, wellness, education, language, culture and commemoration for class members and their communities.” Finally, Canada has also agreed to pay a fixed amount to Gowling W.L.G. to cover their legal expenses and fees, and to provide ongoing legal support for Survivors to access compensation.

To access compensation, Survivors or the representatives of a Survivor’s estate must fill out and submit the appropriate claims form by no later than July 13, 2022. A link to the claims form may be found here. Calculation for the payout is determined in tranches depending on the severity of the abuse that an individual suffered. Because of the nature of the questions asked in the form, Survivors may wish to seek counselling or support to help them fill out the form. Survivors can access a mental support hotline at 1-855-242-3310. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A chat line can also be reached at this address. Survivors or Estate Representatives with questions about the settlement process should either contact their local band office for more information, or contact Gowling W.L.G at 1 (844) 539-3815. They can also contact the general information line mentioned above at 1 (888) 221-2898. There is no charge to calling any of these numbers.

The content provided in this post is to be considered as legal information only. It is not legal advice and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Nahwegahbow Corbiere.