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Historic Class Action Lawsuit Launched by Survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School to Seek Recognition and Justice

WHITECAP, SK, Jan. 24, 2023 /CNW/ - The Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee, with support from the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, have taken a major step forward in their pursuit of recognition and justice for the Survivors and their families of the former residential school.

Survivors of Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee (CNW Group/Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee)
Survivors of Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee (CNW Group/Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee)

A lawsuit has been commenced by six Survivors and intergenerational Survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse residential school seeking compensation for the harms and abuses the Survivor suffered from attending at the School. The Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee, and the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan are supporting this proposed class action. The lawsuit filed with the Saskatchewan Court of King's Bench late last month follows many years of failed attempts to negotiate with the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada for fair compensation for Survivors.

"I hope, that by bringing forward this lawsuit, that the Survivors of Île-à-la-Crosse will finally receive the justice that we deserve and that our truth is heard," said plaintiff and Survivor Louis Gardiner, "we lost our language, our culture, and our identity at the school. We deserve justice and recognition moving forward."

From the residential school's inception in the 1820s, to its closure in the 1970s, Survivors who attended Île-à-la-Crosse faced inhumane living conditions and suffered physical, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of school staff. The harms endured by Survivors have resulted in long-term mental health challenges, and the loss of Indigenous culture, language, and identity. The intergenerational trauma that impacts Survivors and their families continues, passing from one generation to the next.

"We are ready to negotiate and invite the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan to work with Survivors and their families" said Duane Favel, an intergenerational Survivor whose father attended the school in the 1940s and 50s and is a member of the Survivor's Committee, "Survivors and their families deserve recognition, justice and compensation. Survivors are dying and we are losing time. The time to act is now."

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are seeking compensation from the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan for the roles that each played in operating the Île-à-la-Crosse School, and for breaching their legal duties to the Survivors.

"For too long, the truth of the residential school experience of Métis children has been ignored by Canadians. Métis Survivors have been denied the benefits of Indian Residential School settlements, including both the compensation and apologies that other Survivors have received," stated Michelle LeClair, Vice-President of the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, "MN–S is proud to support the Survivors Committee in its pursuit of justice, and hope that the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada come to the table to negotiate a fair settlement with Survivors."

This lawsuit is brought on behalf of all First Nation, non-status, Inuit and Métis people who attended as students for educational purposes at the Île-à-la-Crosse residential school at any time (the "Survivor Class Members"), including both day students (individuals who attended at the school during the day and slept somewhere else), and residential/boarding students. The lawsuit also includes claims on behalf of close family members of Survivor Class Members (any spouse, parent, child, grandchild, or sibling), and surviving spouses of deceased Survivor Class Members.

More information can be found at United4Survivors.ca.

About the Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School Steering Committee

The Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School Steering Committee Inc. is comprised of 12 board members representing twenty communities in Northwest Saskatchewan. The committee has been actively advocating for Survivors of the Ile a la Crosse Boarding School for over twenty years. Founding members of the committee include Antoinette Lafleur, Emile Janvier, Margaret Aubichon, and Duane Favel.

About Métis Nation–Saskatchewan

Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) is the recognized government of the Métis Nation in Saskatchewan. MN–S is built on a foundation of Métis identity, culture, values, and language. MN–S works to advance Métis rights and recognition. MN–S represents the political, socioeconomic, cultural, and educational interests of more than 80,000 Métis in the province through an elected representative system at local, regional, and provincial levels.

Backgrounder: Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission forced Canada to confront the realities of its troubled history and face the truths of what First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were forced to endure while students in the residential school system. Unfortunately, the experience of Métis Survivors and their families is not as widely known to the general public, and they have been left out of earlier legal settlements..

The Île-à-la-Crosse school was in operation from the 1820s until it burned down for the last time in the mid-1970s. Over the course of the school's 100-plus-year existence, Métis and First Nation children were forcibly removed from loving households and subjected to violence, terror, and neglect from those charged with their care and education. They often endured physical and sexual abuse at the hands of school staff.

In keeping with the stated mission of the residential school system policy to "kill the Indian in the child", students at Île-à-la-Crosse were forbidden from practicing their traditional cultural practices. The community of Île-à-la-Crosse is a Métis community and was primarily Cree-Michif-speaking, and many children from neighbouring Dene communities were also sent to the school. Attendance at the School often resulted in Survivors losing their traditional languages, as they were banned from speaking their own languages and frequently beaten if they did not speak English or French.

Métis children lost their culture, identity, and traditional languages as a direct result of their treatment within the school's walls. These losses have had a profound effect on the Métis community and the descendants of the Survivors. The Métis Nation and its citizens face, to this day, the lasting repercussions of the residential school system and the intergenerational trauma that continues.

The Île-à-la-Crosse residential school Survivors were excluded from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement because the school was determined not to qualify as an "Indian Residential School". They have also been left out of all subsequent "Indigenous childhood claims" settlements.

Although a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2019 between the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada, and the steering committee representing Île-à-la-Crosse School Survivors to discuss a process for a fair resolution, those discussions were unsuccessful.

The Plaintiffs in the newly filed proposed class action lawsuit, Gardiner et al v Canada et al, consist of six Survivors and intergenerational Survivors, who are suing the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan for breaching their statutory/constitutional, fiduciary, and common law duties to all of the Île-à-la-Crosse school Survivors and their close family members. With support from the Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors' Committee and the Métis NatioSaskatchewan, the Plaintiffs are working to rectify the Survivors' unjust exclusion from the legal recognition of, and compensation for, the harms that they endured.

More information can be found at United4Survivors.ca.

SOURCE Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee

Cision
Cision

View original content to download multimedia: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/January2023/24/c1835.html