Residential school day students seek compensation

The Tk'emlups Indian Band and the Sechelt Indian Band are fighting for compensation for First Nations children who attended B.C. residential schools but did not live there.

Tk'emlups Indian Band Chief Shane Gottfriedson says day students also suffered abuse in residential school

From the late 19th century onwards, aboriginal children in Canada were forced to attend government residential schools where they suffered emotional, physical and sometimes sexual abuse at the hands of church teachers.

The Tk'emlups Indian Band and the Sechelt Indian Band are fighting for compensation for First Nations children who attended B.C. residential schools but did not live there.

Lawyers representing the bands will be in court next month, arguing for the certification of a class action lawsuit launched in 2012 that seeks compensation for all day scholars who attended residential schools.

Tk'emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson says the two bands will argue that day scholars — students who returned home every night — suffered the same abuse and mistreatment that many residential school students endured.

They also suffered the same loss in culture and language, the bands will argue, yet they were never compensated.

"We just want our people to be treated fairly," Gottfriedson said in an interview with Daybreak Kamloops. "I think it's a human rights issue."

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was implemented in 2007. It allowed, among other things, residential school survivors to receive $10,000 for their first year at a listed school, plus $3,000 for each additional year.

In addition to financial compensation for day scholars, Gottfriedson says he is also seeking compensation for their descendants, as well as money for a healing fund.

"At the end of the day, there's no money that could ever replace or compensate anybody for what happened," he said.

"I think those are deep-rooted issues that traumatized many people, and that's why we're looking for a community healing fund so we can look at building programs and better services for our people."

The court hearing is expected to take place on April 13 in Federal Court in Vancouver.

Stolen children

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.

To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Interview with Chief Shane Gottfriedson


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