Nfld. & Labrador

Settlement for residential school survivors sought from federal government

Lawyer Kirk Baert and MP Yvonne Jones are both seeking a quick out-of-court settlement from the federal government for residential school survivors.

Lawyer Kirk Baert and MP Yvonne Jones are calling for an out-of-court settlement for survivors

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones says it's important residential school survivors deserve a settlement sooner rather than later. (CBC)

Lawyers representing residential school survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador are challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal government to uphold its campaign promise to settle with former residential school students in this province.

Kirk Baert, a lawyer representing the former students, called out the federal government in an e-mail to CBC News, saying it is saying one thing publicly and doing another in court.   

The statement comes following a judge's decision to uphold the federal lawyers argument that each and every plaintiff in the ongoing class action lawsuit must prove in court that they were harmed in the residential schools.

"I find it ironic that on the very day our government is trumpeting reconciliation and a new approach, their lawyers are taking the old approach and requiring each and every member of the class to prove harm," Baert said. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why federal lawyers are still fighting the class action suit for residential school survivors in court Tuesday. (CBC)

Prime Minister Trudeau was asked why federal lawyers are still fighting the case in court following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report. 

"We know that it does no one any good for issues like this to have to be settled in court," said Trudeau.

"We need to move forward responsibly but as we make that decision, in a responsible way, which we will certainly ask our justice minister to do. We'll have more to say on that case and others."

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones has said that the outcome of this case will directly affect many people she knows and represents in her riding. 

"I know many of these survivors," she said. 

"I know many of them that have already passed on without getting that apology and without getting that resolve, and that hurts me, and it hurts their families. For those still surviving, we own it to them to settle this sooner rather than later."

Nicky Obed says he was sent to a residential school in St. Anthony after his mother died in the late 1950s, and stayed in the residential school system for 8 years. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Over 1,000 abused

More than 1,000 aboriginal people in the province have said that they were abused at five residential schools after Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada. 

Their lawsuit was first launched in 2008 after those students were left out of the apology and compensation given to other Canadian residential school survivors. 

According to the federal government, the five schools in question were not created under The Indian Act and therefore weren't true residential schools, exempting Newfoundland and Labrador survivors from the apology and compensation. 

Government also argued that it didn't operate the schools in Newfoundland and Labrador, rather they were created before the province joined Confederation in 1949. 

The class action is scheduled to continue in January, and lawyers say it could last well into the spring of 2016 if not settled out of court.