Nfld. & Labrador

Residential schools settlement: Retired judge James Igloliorte to lead healing portion

Just over a year since Ottawa settled with residential schools survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador, work on the healing component of the agreement has begun.

Igloliorte to talk to former students and families, report insights back to federal government

James Igloliorte will lead the healing and commemoration portion of the settlement between the federal government and people who attended residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. ( Nunatsiavut Group of Companies)

Just over a year after Ottawa agreed to pay $50 million to people who suffered abuse at residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, work on the healing portion of the agreement has begun.

Last week, the Department of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development announced that retired judge James Igloliorte will be its ministerial special representative.

That means he will lead the healing and commemoration portion of the agreement, going into mostly northern Labrador communities and speaking with students from all three affected Indigenous groups who attended residential schools. His activities will be funded by the federal government outside of the $50 million settlement.

A $50-million settlement was reached in May between the federal government and hundreds of students who attended residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

Igloliorte said the task before him may seem daunting, but he plans to start small by opening conversation with the former students and their families and then going from there.

"We will hear the stories, both good and bad," he told the St. John's Morning Show

"This is not entirely a negative history. Many people accept that they're educated and successful because their parents wanted them to attend the residential schools. Of course for others, in more recent years, some of the institutional abuse also occured."

An Inuk from Hopedale, Labrador, Igloliorte has a useful perspective for his new job, given that he was sent by his mother to the Yale residential school in Northwest River to get an education.

Former student Toby Obed, outside Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's on May 10, expresses joy that a settlement was reached with the federal government. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Igloliorte's work has already started through early consultations with representatives from the health community, and right now the plan is to continue through March 2018.

He said besides talking to Indigenous people who were affected by the residential school program, his other main duty is to report back to federal decision makers on how to better understand the legacy of the schools, and educate future generations on how to avoid making the same mistakes.

"From the Inuit perspective at least, and I suspect from the other two groups as well, one of the main drivers is to look at how federal government decisions around Indigenous people are made," he said.

"In today's perspective, that's not how these kinds of decisions should be made. So what we're hoping to do is offer advice to the federal government as well."

With files from St. John's Morning Show and Labrador Morning Show

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