Legacy of Garry McLean lives on in day school wellness fund

Up to seven survivors will help oversee the $200-million legacy fund.

Garry McLean was a day school survivor from Lake Manitoba First Nation. Photo: Supplied


The McLean Day School Settlement Corp. was unveiled Thursday with a mandate to support and commemorate day school survivors.

The organization was formed with $200 million from the $1.47-billion, class-action settlement agreement reached with Ottawa in 2018.

It is named for the late Garry McLean, a day school survivor from Lake Manitoba First Nation, who filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 200,000 survivors.

“The experiences he endured and survived and spent his life working through were used as tools to create connections and support. He thought there was nothing that can’t be talked about,” said his daughter, Kristin McLean, who represented Garry at a virtual news conference.

“You may not be in agreement but instead of getting angry or upset, talk to the person or someone you trust; have faith the situation can be worked out. He felt it wasn’t his job to bring you down, but to try to lift you up with whatever you were facing or dealing with.”

Claudette Commanda is Algonquin Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec. Photo: courtesy Indspire

Kristin was flanked by two day school survivors – Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Roger Augustine – and one residential school survivor – retired Inuk judge James Igloliorte – who make up the corporation’s initial board that is expected to grow to seven members.

Survivors of day schools were forced to attend federally run institutions during the day but allowed to return home at night – a system that began in the 1920s.

The day schools operated similar to the notorious residential schools.

“Now that the conversation on the legacy of colonialism and impact of Residential Schools in Canada has been renewed, it is vital that Survivors of Indian Day Schools are not forgotten,” Commanda said in a statement.

“We are hopeful now that with the leadership of our Board and the perspectives of Day Schools Survivors, the Legacy Fund will create positive pathways for healing and help restore language, culture, wellness, commemoration, and truth-telling.”

Roger Augustine is a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick and AFN Regional Chief for N.B./P.E.I. Photo: Supplied

McLean, who died only weeks before the settlement was reached, filed his lawsuit to obtain compensation for abuse and other damages.

And because day school survivors were left out of the earlier residential schools settlement agreement.

“This will be the enduring legacy of Garry McLean, and the resulting healing, truth-telling, and commemoration that will come out of it will be a testament to his spirit,” Commanda added in the statement.

The board will now undertake a consultation process asking survivors and their families across Canada how best to implement the Legacy Fund.

Meanwhile, 85,107 claimants have received compensation out of 118,950 applications, a spokesperson said.

James Igloliorte is an Inuk from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador. Photo: supplied

Another 10,499 claims need more information before being completed. And another 23,344 are waiting to be processed.

The deadline to file a claim is July 13, 2022.

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.