Nfld. & Labrador

Trudeau will apologize to Newfoundland and Labrador residential school survivors on Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this Friday to apologize to Newfoundland and Labrador's residential school survivors.

Apology will be held at the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Residential school survivor Toby Obed celebrates the class-action settlement reached with the federal government, outside Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's in May of 2016. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday to apologize on behalf of Canada for what students suffered in the residential school system in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We felt that Happy Valley-Goose Bay with its huge airport, the facilities here, it might be the best place to hold it," James Igloliorte, a representative for the federal government, told CBC's Labrador Morning.

James Igloliorte is the ministerial special representative tasked with bridging the gap between the federal government and residential school survivors in N.L. ( Nunatsiavut Group of Companies)

Residential school survivors in the province were left out of a 2008 apology and compensation package by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Last year, the federal government settled a class action lawsuit representing hundreds of former Newfoundland and Labrador students for $50 million, after lawyers argued Ottawa owed the same duty of care to them since the province joined Confederation in 1949.

"There are a lot of complexities to this," Igloliorte said. 

"Only one party is giving this apology, and that's Canada, but many people feel that ... the Newfoundland government, the International Grenfell Association, [and] the Moravian Church should be all part of this apology."

'Close-knit facility'

The 400-seat Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre will be the venue for the apology, set to take place at 10:30 a.m.

The gymnasium at Mealy Mountain Collegiate, the adjoined high school will act as an overflow venue and have a live stream of the event on a screen. 

If we brought them back ... it would be very difficult for some of the former students.- James Igloliorte

"We wanted to have a place where it would be fairly intimate, where people could hear very well what was being said and to have everyone in one close-knit facility," Igloliorte said.

"So what we're doing is we're trying to concentrate all the former students, the ones that we've brought in and anybody else in the region who's a former student to come on in."

Representatives from Nunatsiavut, Nunatukavut and the Innu Nation will also take part in the ceremony, which will feature a drum dancing performance as well as a performance of O Canada by the Nain Youth Choir.

An invitation-only breakfast will also be held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday at the town's Royal Canadian Legion.

A difficult day

There was some debate over where the apology should take place, some asking for it to be held on the north coast of Labrador.

"It was felt that it might be difficult [and] weather might be an issue if we try to go to a small community," Igloliorte said.

Class action lawyers in Supreme Court in St. John's in 2016 making a case for a $50-million settlement for residential school survivors. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"It would be hard to bring in numbers of people to those places. If we brought them back to anywhere where there had been residential schools, it would be very difficult for some of the former students."

Anticipating that it may be a difficult day for the survivors and their families, Igloliorte said there will be mental health services in place.

"We've spoken to the Indigenous groups. They've all been very gracious with us and they've agreed that there will be people there. Mental health supports throughout, before and after the process."

With files from Bailey White and Labrador Morning