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Indian Boarding Home Program - Class Action Lawsuit

Posted:  Oct 13, 2023


Historial Overview of the Indian Boarding School Program

The Indian Boarding Home Program 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.

 

What is Class Action?

A class action lawsuit, also known 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. 

This is the embodyment of the old expression, all for one and one for all. Individuals can band together and fight united against a common enemy. 

One of the advantages of this legal mechanism is that it 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.


What is the Class Action Lawsuit About?

The Indian Boarding Homes Class Action is a legal case brought by Indigenous individuals who were separated from their families and communities and placed in boarding homes while attending public schools in Canada from 1951 to 1992. This legal action claims that the Canadian government’s establishment and operation of the Indian Boarding Home Program fostered a setting conducive to mistreatment, harassment, and other harmful experiences.

The program was determined to be 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.

 

Class Members That Are Covered By The Settlement Agreement.

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.

 

Class Members Who Are NOT Covered By The Settlement Agreement

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.


The Indian boarding home class action lawsuit has been making the news in recent times. In our last post, we discussed at length the history of the Indian boarding home program, the ordeals the victims have gone through, what the lawsuit entails, when it was filed, and the resolution.  In this post, we will answer some of the frequently asked questions related to this significant legal action.

 

What’s the Federal Court Resolution on the Lawsuit?

An agreement has been reached between the class members and the Canadian government on how the affected individuals will be compensated. The proposed settlement is under two categories: the first category is a single payment that will paid to every eligible primary class member. The second compensation category will be determined by the severity of the harm caused by the program to individual primary class members. An eligible class member may apply for the first and second categories but they can't receive more than one payment from each category

 

How can I know if I am eligible for the compensation?

At least, you will be eligible for compensation under the first category If you were placed in private homes by the Canadian government. Also, you have to be alive on July 24, 2016, to be eligible for compensation. If you are a family member of a victim of the program and you want to claim compensation, you will not be able to receive the compensation directly, instead, your claim will be recognized and addressed by the indirect compensation available through the Foundation’s reconciliation projects.

 

How will I receive my compensation?

It is worth noting that as of now, the Federal Court still has not approved the settlement. If the federal court does approve it and you want to claim your compensation, you will need to submit an application form for each category of compensation. That is, if you apply for the Category 1 compensation, you will be paid the mandatory $10,000. If, however, you intend to apply for the category 2 compensation, you will have to wait for your claim to be approved before you receive a payment based on the level of harm you suffered while in the private home.

 

I want to file my own lawsuit, how do I exclude myself from the class action?

If you don't wish to receive compensation as part of the settlement and want to retain your right to file your lawsuit related to your involvement in the Boarding Homes Program, then you have to fill and submit an “Opt Out” form within 60 days (after the settlement agreement has been  approved by the Federal Court)


 

End Note

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.

 

 

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