Kivalliq Hall qualifies for residential school settlements, Nunavut appeals court rules

The judges upheld a decision from 2016 to include the former student residence in Rankin Inlet among a list of schools in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Lawyers for federal government claimed school was N.W.T.'s responsibility, not Canada's

Lawyers for the federal government claimed Kivalliq Hall was the N.W.T.'s responsibility, not Canada's. The residential school operated in Rankin Inlet, before Nunavut was a territory. (NWT Archives/Northwest Territories. Department of Public Works and Services fonds/G-1995-001: 5917)

Students who lived at Kivalliq Hall in Rankin Inlet are eligible for residential school settlements, according to the Nunavut Court of Appeal.

Justices Patricia Rowbotham, Sheila Greckol and Jo'Anne Strekaf upheld a decision from 2016 to include the former student residence among a list of schools in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

"It has been a very long process," said Simeon Mikkungwak, who was part of the initial legal action.

The federal government appeal argued the Northwest Territories — not Canada — was responsible for Kivalliq Hall, which operated in Rankin Inlet between 1985 and 1995, before Nunavut was a territory.

Mikkungwak, also the MLA for Baker Lake, lived in the residence while attending Keewatin Region Education Centre until 1989 when he graduated with a high school diploma.

It has been a very long process.- Simeon Mikkungwak, former student

The federal government denied his request to include Kivalliq Hall in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The agreement, which began in 2007, aimed to address the legacy of the government-run schools, including compensation for claims of sexual or physical abuse, healing measures, and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 2012, Mikkungwak and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. claimed former students of the residence should be eligible for compensation.

'It has been a very long process,' said Simeon Mikkungwak, who was part of the initial legal action to have Kivalliq Hall among a list of schools in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. (Jordan Konek/CBC)

Justice Bonnie Tulloch decided in favour of adding Kivalliq Hall to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and that Canada was jointly responsible for operating the residence and for placing Mikkungwak there away from his family.

"As a former student, we were practically given no choice as to what high school we wanted to attend," Mikkungwak said.

The lawyer representing Canada argued there wasn't enough evidence to prove the federal government was responsible, because it had given the Northwest Territories authority over education.

Judge weighed the evidence

In a written decision dated July 20, the panel of judges dismissed Canada's appeal, writing Tulloch did not make errors in her decision, which looked at the period from 1985 to 1989 when Mikkungwak stayed at Kivalliq Hall.

"She considered and weighed the evidence, and considered the totality of the relationship between Canada and Kivalliq Hall in order to assess the degree to which Canada was responsible for the placement and care of its students and the operation of the institution," the judges wrote in their reasoning.

"While it would have been possible to reach a different conclusion, that does not constitute reviewable error," they concluded.

Under the agreement's common experience payments, each survivor of residential school receives $10,000 for the first year of attendance and $3,000 for each additional year. Former students can apply for further compensation for abuse they suffered at residential school.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is responsible for making sure former students receive payments through the settlement.

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