KAMLOOPS, B.C.—Three First Nations say they have reached a memorandum of understanding with the federal government that could keep their bid to include day students in a settlement for residential school survivors out of court.
The Tk'emlups and Sechelt bands in B.C. launched a class-action lawsuit in 2012 after a settlement between the government and about 86,000 residential school survivors excluded day scholars—students who attended the schools but did not live at them.
They later were joined in the lawsuit by the Grand Council of the Crees in Northern Quebec.
The First Nations say the memorandum commits both sides to resolve the case without going to court by finding a fair settlement in a timely manner.
Jo-Anne Gottfriedson, the Tk'emlups day scholar co-ordinator, said it's hoped this development will allow the First Nations to avoid a legal fight.
“We hope that we will have a mutual understanding and if not, there's still that litigation process that we can fall back on,” Gottfriedson told CFJC.
“But we're definitely hopeful at this point because it's been long overdue and the day scholars endured just as much as the residential school students.”
Gottfriedson estimated about 70,000 indigenous people qualify as day scholars.
“There are so many people who are impacted by this and I'm really happy that we're going to move forward on it and work together, acknowledging each other's sovereign governance, which is very hopeful,” she noted.
The First Nations said in a news release the tenor of negotiations between the plaintiff bands and the government changed in late 2016, when the government committed to trying to find a settlement outside of the courts.
Gottfriedson said the Trudeau government has been open to finding a resolution.
“With our prime minister recognizing the Truth and Reconciliation [Commission] recommendation that nobody should be left out, I'm very hopeful and I'm very optimistic as to how this is going to roll out in the best interests of our people.”