Residential school day scholars are now able to submit claims for compensation under a recent legal settlement.
The residential school survivors — who attended during the day, but were able to go home at night — suffered the same destruction of language and culture as other students at residential schools but were left out of the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and were not eligible for the settlement’s common experience payments; $10,000 for the first year of living at a residential school and $3,000 for every year after.
The day scholars settlement approved by the Federal Court last October includes individual compensation of $10,000 and a $50 million Day Scholars Revitalization Fund to support healing, linguistic and cultural reclamation. The claims process opened on Tuesday.
The settlement stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2012 by Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc and shíshálh Nation.
Diena Jules, a member of Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. as a day scholar from age seven in 1962, until 1967.
“It’s a really big relief that we are finally going to be getting compensation and that Canada is recognizing that we were adversely affected by the residential school the same as the residential school survivors,” she said.
She said she hopes resolution will be found through the process, even though other survivors were not happy with the monetary outcome at first.
“Some survivors were really very angry that it was just $10,000,” she said.
“We were canvassed, the plaintiffs … we were asked if we wanted to go to court again, and there was a chance that we might not win. Just to talk about our experiences would have been just too much. It’s as if it’s a scab that gets ripped right open and you’re exposing yourself, and we just said no.”
Jules said she hopes the application process will be an easy one for those who need help.
Since the claims process opened, over 60 community members have started the application process in shíshálh Nation.
“I’m so happy and excited for our people,” said band councillor Selena August, the descendant of a survivor who’s worked on the lawsuit since its early days.
“I think everybody’s just thrilled to see that it’s finally come, that they’re finally seeing justice.”
She encourages people to get help applying.
“We want to make sure that everyone that is eligible to apply, applies, because they deserve it,” she said.
Who can apply?
Any day scholar who attended a residential school on the list in the settlement and did not stay there overnight is able to make a claim.
There is also an estate claim process where descendants can apply for compensation on behalf of day scholars who died after May 30, 2005, said John Phillips, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
The form can be filled out online, or a print version can be mailed to the claims administrator. Survivors are not required to share their experiences at the schools as part of the process.
Phillips said the $50 million revitalization fund is still in the process of being established.
This is a separate settlement from the 2019 settlement for former students of federal day schools.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.