First Na­tions move to­ward set­tle­ment for day stu­dents

The Province - - NEWS -

Three First Na­tions say they have reached a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that could keep their bid to in­clude day stu­dents in a set­tle­ment for res­i­den­tial school sur­vivors out of court.

The Tk’emlups and Sechelt bands in B.C. launched a class-ac­tion law­suit in 2012 af­ter a set­tle­ment be­tween the gov­ern­ment and about 86,000 res­i­den­tial school sur­vivors ex­cluded day schol­ars, stu­dents who at­tended the schools but did not live at them. They were later joined in the law­suit by the Grand Coun­cil of the Crees in North­ern Que­bec.

The First Na­tions say the mem­o­ran­dum com­mits both sides to re­solve the case with­out go­ing to court by find­ing a fair set­tle­ment in a timely man­ner.

Jo-Anne Got­tfried­son, the Tk’emlups day scholar co­or­di­na­tor, says it’s hoped this de­vel­op­ment will al­low the First Na­tions to avoid a le­gal fight.

“We hope that we will have a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and if not, there’s still that lit­i­ga­tion process that we can fall back on,” Got­tfried­son told CFJC. “But we’re def­i­nitely hope­ful at this point, be­cause it’s been long over­due and the day schol­ars en­dured just as much as the res­i­den­tial school stu­dents.”

The De­part­ment of Crown-In­dige­nous Re­la­tions and North­ern Af­fairs said “ex­ploratory dis­cus­sions with the plain­tiffs have been pro­duc­tive” and the mem­o­ran­dum in­cludes a process and time­lines to try to find a res­o­lu­tion out­side the courts.

Got­tfried­son es­ti­mates about 70,000 In­dige­nous peo­ple qual­ify as day schol­ars.

“There are so many peo­ple who are im­pacted by this and I’m re­ally happy that we’re go­ing to move for­ward on it and work to­gether, ac­knowl­edg­ing each other’s sov­er­eign gov­er­nance which is very hope­ful,” she said.

The bands in B.C. say the stu­dents at­tended 140 schools across Canada.

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