Though “no amount of money can change the dark legacy of Canada’s residential and day school systems,” Norman Yakeleya, Dene Nation national chief, said the recent Day Scholar settlement “does demonstrate how far we’ve come.”
“Now, let’s focus our collective efforts on how far we still have to go,” he said.
The settlement, first reported June 9 by the Canadian Press, was reached in a class-action lawsuit between the federal government and hundreds of “Day Scholars” – Indigenous students who attended residential school during the day and lived close enough that they could return home at night.
The group brought forth legal action in 2012 after being excluded from the original payments made to compensate residential school survivors for the trauma they endured as well as the loss of language and culture.
In the proposed settlement, survivors will receive a compensation payment of $10,000 and the Canadian government will create a $50 million Day Scholar Revitalization Fund to support healing and encourage teachings of Indigenous language, culture and heritage.
In exchange, Canada is released of its liability and survivors no longer have the right to sue Canada for harms endured while attending day school.
The terms of the settlement can only take effect if the proposed settlement is approved by the Federal Court. The matter is set to be heard on Sept. 7, 2021.
Yakeleya called the legal battle re-traumatizing but said that the settlement marks an important milestone of losses suffered by day scholars and descendants “finally being acknowledged.
“As First Nations people, let us continue to reclaim our traditions, empower our descendants, and revitalize the culture that was stolen from us through these systems of oppression,” Yakeleya said.
”Let us use the strength of those survivors no longer with us and honour their experience by letting today be a reminder that the federal government is still fighting survivors in court. In their honour, we must keep up the fight and ensure the momentum of this victory continues.”