Day school survivors deserve more than $10,000, judge hears

“Abuse is abuse. Everybody should get the same.”

Nearly 30 people said the Indian day school settlement agreement needs changing Tuesday, starting with paying former students more money.

“I object to $10,000,” said former student Clarence Sumner of Pinaymootang First Nation in Manitoba.

“That’s a slap in the face.”

Sumner was one of 28 objectors – mostly former students of the federally run institutions – to address federal court Judge Michael Phelan in Winnipeg.

The judge is hearing three days of arguments on a multi-million-dollar offer from Ottawa to settle a $15-billion class-action lawsuit filed by former students for neglect and abuse.

The compensation package proposed by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett offers former students a one-time payment of $10,000.

Then it makes additional compensation available in amounts from $50,000 to $200,000 depending on the severity of physical and sexual abuse.

Josephine Anderson, another former student, agreed with Sumner that $10,000 was too low.

She said most of the estimated 120,000 to 140,000 living day school students in Canada were harmed at the schools run by churches.

“A higher amount for everyone is more fair,” she told the court before a packed gallery.

Day school students were forced to attend the same schools as residential school students but didn’t board at the buildings.

Several day schools

Glenda Chief, who said she attended several day schools in northern Manitoba, pleaded for the court to extend the time period for survivors to learn about and respond to the settlement.

A sentiment echoed by Harold Linklater of Pelican Narrows in Saskatchewan.

“There is a lack of information,” he said. “We need more time to understand the agreement.”

Beatrice McDonald of Onion Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan agreed there were too many people without access to computers and the internet in her community to get a handle on the offer.

She also questioned how one firm – Gowling WLG of Ottawa – would process all the applications for compensation.

“They are in Ottawa, far from Onion Lake,” she said. “I don’t trust them. I don’t know them.”

Gowling said it would contract a claims administrator to process the applications at no charge to claimants.

Ottawa would pay the firm more than $50 million to fulfill and settle the suit.

Audrey Horn questioned why there needed to be a grid that paid different amounts depending on the kinds and severity of abuse.

“Abuse is abuse,” she said. “Everybody should get the same.”

Most of the objectors liked something about the agreement, giving Ray Mason hope the judge would approve the deal.

“I hope they don’t scrap it,” he said during the afternoon break. “It would take years to re-do.”

Mason is one of the original plaintiffs who filed suit against Canada for omitting day schoolers from the package that compensated students taken from their families and forced to live at residential schools.

The schools operated between 1920 and the 1980s.

The hearing is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday.


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