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Indian Boarding Home Program
The Indian Boarding Home Program, which a class action lawsuit has been filed against, was an educational program by the Canadian Government that spanned from 1951 to 1992. The program was created to relocate children from Indigenous communities to different communities, often non-Indigenous, where they resided with private families while attending school. The schools in question were primarily operated by religious institutions with funding and support from the Canadian government.
For those not familiar with the concept, a class action lawsuit, which some also regard as a class suit or representative action, is a type of legal mechanism where multiple individuals (class members) who have suffered similar harm against a common defendant are grouped as a "class" to collectively seek resolution in court.
One of the advantages of this legal mechanism is that, for one, it helps to speed up the legal process. Also, this approach often results in more equitable outcomes as it holds corporations or entities accountable for widespread wrongdoing. Also worth noting is that, unless they exclude themselves, class action automatically includes all the affected individuals in the lawsuits.
A class action lawsuit against the Indian Boarding Home Program alleges that the program was inhumane, indoctrinatory, and wrong. The program was termed indoctrinatory because it aims to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture by forcibly removing them from their families and communities. Victims of this program have detailed their experiences about the abuse and trauma they’ve endured. For example, they were subjected to strict discipline, physical and emotional abuse, harsh living conditions, and cultural and language suppression.
However, thanks to the victim’s outcry, the Federal Court, in 2019, certified the Indian Boarding Homes lawsuit as a class proceeding. On December 7th, 2022, the survivors and the Canadian government reached an Agreement in Principle to settle the case. Between September 12 and 14, 2023, the Federal Court held a Settlement Approval Hearing where it was agreed that the class members who were alive on July 24, 2016, would be compensated.
The compensation, which is still pending approval by the Federal Court, is grouped under two categories; the first, which is a single payment of $10,000 for each eligible class member, and the other category, where the amount to pay for the compensation will be determined by the level of harm or trauma that an individual suffered (ranges from $10,000 to $200,000).
It should be noted that class members will be allowed to apply for category one and two compensation, they can’t receive more than one payment under each category.
The settlement agreement compensates for two classes: Primary Class and Family Class.
The Primary Class: The Primary Class covers people who lived in private homes for school, not college, between September 1, 1951, and June 30, 1992. It also includes those placed after June 30, 1992, if the government of Canada arranged it.
The Family Class: This class comprises individuals who are part of a victim’s family and suffer from losing the guidance, care, or companionship they should have received from that person.
Not every victim of the Indian Boarding Home Program will be eligible for compensation. For example, individuals placed in private homes by bodies other than the Canadian government will not be eligible to receive compensation. Also, people placed in private homes by Indigenous governing bodies after June 30, 1992, will be excluded from the settlements.
If you’re dealing with trauma or need someone to talk to, you can contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310, or access online counseling support at hopeforwellness.ca. You can call the First Nations and Indigenous Crisis Line in British Columbia at 1-800-588-8717.