Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools healing and commemoration

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The settlement

In 2007 and 2008, 5 class action lawsuits were filed against the Government of Canada and other parties in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. These lawsuits concerned 5 residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inuit, Innu and NunatuKavut individuals attended these schools and, as plaintiffs in these lawsuits, claimed sexual and physical abuse, neglect, language and cultural loss.

The schools were administered by the Government of Newfoundland and operated by the International Grenfell Association and the Moravian Mission. Canada's role was to provide funding to the province to be used for the educational needs of Indigenous students in Labrador.

The residential schools and the timelines covered by the claims period are:

The trial began on September 28, 2015. On November 25, 2015, following an agreement between the province and the plaintiffs, the court released Newfoundland and Labrador from the action.

In February 2016, the parties agreed to an adjournment in an effort to move the litigation towards a resolution. These discussions subsequently led to the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement between the parties.

On September 28, 2016, upon conclusion of the Fairness Hearing and at the request of the parties, Justice Stack of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador approved the settlement agreement as fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class members.

Under the terms of the settlement, Canada provided a lump sum payment of $50 million to plaintiffs as compensation for attendance at the residential schools, as well as for serious abuse claims. As part of the settlement agreement, Canada provided funds to the three Indigenous groups (Innu Nation, Nunatsiavut Government and NunatuKavut Community Council) to complete their own healing and commemoration initiatives. The settlement agreement also includes healing and commemoration initiatives identified by former students. This approach has enabled former students, together with their counsel, to formulate a settlement which respects the terms most satisfactory to them, one which recognizes the needs of the former students from their own perspective.

The compensation process for claims filed by former students of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools for attendance at the schools or allegations of serious abuse was administered by a third party Crawford Class Actions. Former students who have any questions associated with the claims process, should contact the Claims Administrator directly.

Canada remains responsible for administering the healing and commemoration process, in addition to ensuring the implementation of initiatives under the Newfoundland and Labrador Residential Schools Settlement agreement.

In May 2017, James Igloliorte was appointed as Ministerial Special Representative to oversee the implementation of the healing and commemoration portion of the settlement agreement.

About the Prime Minister's apology

Through settlement negotiations, former students indicated that they were hurt and frustrated by their exclusion from the 2008 Indian Residential Schools Apology given by Prime Minister Harper, and clearly stated that an official apology is essential to their healing and ability to move forward with their lives.

On August 3, 2017, the Government of Canada met with representative plaintiffs, their counsel and interested Indigenous stakeholder organizations to collaboratively determine the themes and considerations that would form part of an official apology, as well as the ceremony which accompanied its delivery. Feedback on an official apology was also solicited from all former students through mail-outs and subsequent in-person meetings.

On November 24, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau apologized to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools and their families in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. At the same time, the Prime Minister officially launched the healing and commemoration portion of the settlement agreement. This apology is an important step on the path to reconciliation between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Read the apology given by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. The apology is also available in Inuttitut and Innu-Aimun.

Community healing and commemoration sessions

After the Prime Minister's apology, community healing and commemoration sessions took place from February to May 2018 in these communities:

Each community session began with an open community feast and was followed by 2 days of group and individual sessions, where former students shared stories of their experiences at residential schools. Many stories were recorded, and will be preserved for educational purposes and for future generations. The sessions were facilitated by Ministerial Special Representative James Igloliorte, with support from mental health counsellors, Elders, ceremony and officials from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.

Status of implementation of healing and commemoration agreement

As of January 25, 2019, the following elements of the agreement have been implemented:

As the implementation of the settlement agreement nears completion, the focus now is on completing these education and legacy initiatives:

What's next?

In the coming months and years, the commemorative plaques, travelling exhibition, historical account and permanent document collection will help to educate Canadians about the experiences of former students and the legacy of the schools. These initiatives will ensure that all Canadians continue to advance on the journey of reconciliation together. Telling the story of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools ensures that this history will never be forgotten.

Biography: James Igloliorte, Ministerial Special Representative

James Igloliorte of Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador is a retired Provincial Court Judge. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education from Memorial University, Newfoundland in 1974. He and his wife, Linda Carter, then started their career as teachers on the west coast of Newfoundland. Mr. Igloliorte has lived in Newfoundland and Labrador his whole life.

Appointed first as a lay magistrate in 1980, he took responsibility of the Labrador Court and Circuit System and then completed law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1985. He then returned to take up duties in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as a circuit judge, a position which he held for the majority of his career. James Igloliorte was a 1999 National Aboriginal Achievement Award recipient in the category of Law and Justice. He stepped down from the bench in 2004.

In addition to his impressive legal career, James Igloliorte is a past Labrador Director with the Innu Healing Foundation and was a commissioner with the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada. He has also worked as Newfoundland and Labrador's Child and Youth Advocate and was Commissioner of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission in Nunavut.

James Igloliorte and his wife, Linda Carter, live in St. John's, Newfoundland and have four children and five grandchildren.

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