N.L. residential school survivors' lawyers reach $50M settlement with Ottawa
Woman who testified she was sexually abused as a child says class action case has dragged on too long
A $50-million settlement has been reached for hundreds of residential school survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador who have been involved in a lengthy class action with the federal government.
Former students also will receive an undetermined amount of money for reconciliation and healing.
- Residential school students still want apology, compensation
- Liberal government should settle residential schools suit, says Ches Crosbie
They learned of the settlement in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.
Lawyers expect 750 to 900 people will be compensated.
Plantiff Toby Obed, who went to school in North West River, kept repeating the words "this is over" outside the courthouse Tuesday.
"This is real. This is really happening. It's over. I don't have to go to court no more. I don't have to testify no more," Obed said, choking back tears.
Obed said it's now time to "let this rest."
"I can let my inner child go. I can let my inner child rest."
Although lawyers can't bind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to apologize for the abuses students endured while in the schools, many expect he will.
<a href="https://twitter.com/CBCMarkQuinn">@CBCMarkQuinn</a> it's a day of celebration TY <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau">@JustinTrudeau</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Carolyn_Bennett">@Carolyn_Bennett</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Puglaas">@Puglaas</a> for their support/respectful decision. I am very pleased—@YvonneJJones
About a third of the settlement amount is expected to be paid to lawyers for the plaintiffs from three law firms.
"Over the next few months, class counsel will be visiting Labrador communities to provide information about the compensation distribution plan and answer questions," said lawyer Ches Crosbie, in a news release Tuesday.
The case that was launched almost a decade ago went to trial last fall. Twenty-nine survivors testified.
The settlement is for students who were residents at the schools between 1949 and 1979.
Four of the schools were located in Labrador and St. Anthony.
Class-action lawyers say federal lawyers fought every step of the way until the Liberals were elected last fall.
"I want to start my life all over and I hope and pray that everyone in this class action group can do the same."- Cindy Dwyer, residential school survivor
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had argued the federal government failed to live up to its responsibilities to Indigenous people in the province after Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949.
The federal government argued that Canada did not set up or operate the schools, so couldn't be held responsible for what happened to students.
Former students passed away
Cindy Dwyer testified she was physically and sexually abused as a student in Labrador.
Dwyer, an Inuk from Nain who went to a school in North West River, said appearing in court triggered her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"I want to recover from all of this. I want to start my life all over and I hope and pray that everyone in this class action group can do the same," Dwyer said Monday, prior to news a settlement had been reached.
Dwyer also wants an apology from Trudeau.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say dozens of former students have died since 2007.
"I keep thinking of all the people that can't be here, all the ones that passed away ... to hear this news," Obed said.
Justice Robert Stack will rule in late September if the court accepts the out-of-court settlement.