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A class-action lawsuit against the federal government over the treatment of patients in Canada’s Indian Hospital system has not been settled or begun a claims process.
A lawyer issued that statement Thursday after incorrect information appeared on Facebook this week garnering hundreds of responses from former patients.
“There’s no settlement and there may not be one,” said class-action lawyer Doug Lennox of Klein Lawyers in Vancouver, one of four law firms suing the federal government on behalf of thousands of former patients.
“This may be one of those cases that goes to trial.”
Last week, Fred Wilson, a First Nations health support worker on Vancouver Island, posted an ad for one of the law firms that said, “The Indian Hospital Claim Process is starting” and at the bottom, “Fred will Email you a form to start the process.”
But the process hasn’t started yet.
The four firms are suing Canada for $1.1-billion in damages alleging the operation of 29 segregated facilities known as “Indian Hospitals” was negligent and breached fiduciary duties owed to Indigenous Peoples.
The case was certified on Jan. 17, 2020, and still has a long way to go.
“There’s a lot of complicated issues to go through,” said Lennox Thursday. “We’re still gathering information on how many patients went through the hospitals and how many may still be alive.”
“Indian hospitals” operated between 1945 and 1981 for Indigenous peoples to be treated for tuberculosis and other ailments.
The Charles Camsell in Edmonton was one of the largest, with a patient population of more than a thousand at its peak.
“The class was consent certified but all that means is we have the right to proceed on behalf of the class,” added lawyer Steven Cooper of Cooper Regel in Alberta, another of the four law firms involved.
“That’s no guarantee of settlement or success at trial.”
Both lawyers say they are months – possibly years – from a final result.
And mistakenly using the words “Indian Hospital Claim Process” in the ad didn’t help.
“I heard from at least 300 people,” said Wilson, who is working with Klein to create awareness of the lawsuit among Indigenous Peoples.
“It’s my mistake; 100 per cent my mistake. I’ve updated that now.”
The new post now asks: “Do you qualify?”
Former patients can contact Wilson or any of the four law firms involved for a qualification form.
“There’s a lot of people out there who still haven’t heard about this case,” said Lennox, who is also involved in the ‘60s Scoop class-action settlement.
“We’re very grateful that they called us, but just understand it’s a longer process than you may have thought based on Facebook.”
There are many Indigenous class-action lawsuits going on at the same time.
“There’s so many wrongs to right,” said Lennox, “but it’s confusing and very hard for people to navigate.
The Federal Indian Day School settlement is offering compensation for damages and abuses suffered by students forced to attend one of the identified Federal Indian Day Schools or Federal Day Schools.
The Indian Residential Schools Day Scholars settlement is for students who attended an Indian Residential School during the day only (and did not sleep there overnight).
The Sixties Scoop Class-Action settlement is for First Nations and Inuit children removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents between 1951 and 1991.
Millenium Scoop is another name for two agreements that could compensate for the racist underfunding of child welfare services on reserves and in the Yukon.
Lennox said the claims administrator in the ’60s Scoop settlement, Collectiva, posted an update on its claims process on Dec. 20, 2021.
It shows there were 19,041 claims approved, 697 rejected, 3,306 require more information and 2,876 are being assessed.
Still, the claims are behind schedule, said Lennox.
“It’s not on the original schedule that was planned, but there was a (coronavirus) pandemic and some cases turned out to be more complicated than anyone expected,” he explained. “We are getting closer to the end.”
Collectiva’s figures also show 8,850 claims were denied.
“It’s frustrating (for those turned down) but at least it’s an answer for some people,” said Lennox, “They may qualify for other settlements.”
One complaint about the Day School claims process is that it is going too fast.
Claims administrator Deloitte set a record, Lennox said, by processing and paying more than 70,000 claims in the first year.
“That kind of speed in getting people money, I can’t think of any other class action that has moved that much money to that many people that quickly.”
However, some claimants who received payment reconsidered their claims and wanted to refile.
“They thought about it more and want to change their answer,” Lennox said. “But a judge said No.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Jan. 21 to correct the Day School and Day Scholar criteria.