The leader of the Assembly of First Nations hopes a class-action lawsuit launched in British Columbia on behalf of a group of former residential school students will expand across Canada.
The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Indian Band in the B.C. Interior and the Sechelt Indian Band on the province's central coast have launched a case on behalf of day scholars who attended residential schools during the day, but went home at night.
The lawsuit follows a 2006 federal decision to compensate residential school survivors, which only applies to those forced to live at the government schools designed to wipe out aboriginal culture and not to day scholars.
Under the 2006 settlement, residential school survivors are eligible to automatically receive a Common Experience Payment amounting to $10,000 for the first year spent boarding and $3000 for every subsequent year.
However, the assembly's national chief Shawn Atleo said this week former day scholars from across the country were also scarred by the residential school system and want to be acknowledged and compensated.
Residential schools were opened in Canada in the 19th century as part of the government's "aggressive assimilation" policy, which aimed to get aboriginal children to adopt Christianity and Canadian customs and diminish native traditions.
In all, about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the church-run, government-funded industrial schools. It is not known how many day scholars also attended the schools.
Throughout the years, children studied and lived in substandard conditions and endured physical and emotional abuse. The aims of assimilation meant devastation for those who were subjected to years of mistreatment.
Over the past two decades, there have also been more than 12,000 lawsuits launched against the federal government and churches alleging sexual, physical and other kinds of abuse.