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Inuvik Native Band catches up on day scholar class action lawsuit progress

The Inuvik Native Band has identified about 40 members who were day scholars at residential schools and may benefit from an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

Collects data for co-ordinators in B.C. a week before deadline

The Inuvik Native Band has identified about 40 members who were day scholars at residential schools and may benefit from an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

Day scholars attended Indian Residential Schools during the day but went home at night. Day scholars weren't included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2006 and did not receive compensation.

Everyone who was a day scholar and the children of people who were day scholars are automatically included in the class-action lawsuit, which was certified in June 2015.

Edward Wright, the acting administrator of the Inuvik Native Band, says about 40 people responded to their call-out to former day scholars of residential schools. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Indigenous groups across Canada are trying to identify and count the potential beneficiaries of the lawsuit. However, the Inuvik Native Band had a very late start to spreading the word and started to take recent action due to an inquiry from a representative of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

"She had asked me about this particular file. After looking through things, I came across what was left of any action on it from the past. Then I contacted the initiating band," said Edward Wright, the acting administrator of the Inuvik Native Band.

Missed band deadline

Wright, who is new to his position, found the document that he said went "by the wayside" about six months after the info was initially sent out to bands across Canada.

Wright found out that it was too late for the band itself to become a part of the band class of the lawsuit — if First Nation groups wanted to opt-in, the deadline was in February.

The lawsuit's co-ordinators were also collecting forms from individuals as data collection — to get an estimated count of those eligible as they head into settlement negotiations. 

Wright said he found that information out about a week before the Nov. 30 deadline for the count. 

"I just a put message on and started dealing with people mainly for the Inuvik Native Band...as well as other members from some of the communities and past members that live in Yellowknife," said Wright. 

Wright said in the short period of time, there were about 40 inquiries made. He said if there had been more time, more names would have been collected. 

"A lot of our people in not just Inuvik but the whole Beaufort Delta, many, many people attended residential schools as well as day schools," said Wright. 

Even if they were not counted by Nov. 30, all former day scholars and their children are still included in the suit.

Negotiations to begin

In October, the federal government appointed a ministerial special representative and negotiations toward a settlement are expected to begin in the New Year. The process is expected to take years. 

Jo-Anne Gottfriedson with the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Indian band in the B.C. Interior is the co-chair and co-ordinator for the day scholars class action lawsuit. She says information about the lawsuit has been passed along to all the bands across Canada since May, and that time is of the essence.

"Three of our plaintiffs have already passed away in this last year," she said.

"The most important goal that we want to achieve is to have the opportunity and the right to regain our language and our culture, and to have healing for our people."

She said about 98 bands across Canada opted-in to the band class of the lawsuit.

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