Hundreds of people who say they suffered abuse at the hands of their teachers gathered at Winnipeg's Indian and Metis Friendship Centre Thursday.

They call themselves day school survivors.

'I did suffer when I went to day school from the teachers that we had.'—Patricia Desmoulin, former day school student

While they were not in the residential school system, they say the abuse they suffered was the same.

Patricia Desmoulin sold handicrafts to be able to make the trip from Pick River First Nation, Ontario to find healing.

"I did suffer when I went to day school from the teachers that we had," she said. "Physical abuse."

Desmoulin started going to an Indian Day School when she was 4 years old.

As was the case in residential schools, she wasn't allowed to speak her language or practice her culture.

Desmoulin said the only difference between the two schools systems was she got to go home at night.

Lawsuit launched

Joan Jack, a Winnipeg lawyer who launched a class action lawsuit on behalf of day scholars in 2009 said the similarities between the two systems outweigh the differences.

"Predators at the residential schools would abuse children at the day schools as well, so the same denomination would be running the day school as the residential school," she said.

Jack said day students were left out of the compensation process for residental school survivors.

She said there are about 10,000 former day school students across Canada who have come forward.

'Predators at the residential schools would abuse children at the day schools as well.'—Joan Jack, Winnipeg lawyer

It's not clear yet, she said, just how many survivors there are or even how many day schools existed.

At the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre on Thursday, survivors found support in each other.

Some shared their experiences for the first time.

Desmoulin said for many, it's a start. "First I will share it with my friends," she said. "After that, it will get easier, as I share more."

Desmoulin has joined the lawsuit but said the healing the process will bring far outweighs any monetary gains.