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Federal Court approves residential day schools settlement

A Federal Court judge has upheld a $2.8 billion settlement between the Canadian government and 325 First Nations plaintiffs whose members attended residential day schools.

In her ruling Thursday, Judge Ann Marie MacDonald said the settlement was intended to help take steps to reverse the loss of language, culture and heritage through the indigenous-led nonprofit body.

“This settlement is historic in both the amount of settlement and its unique structure,” Macdonald said.

“As Canada has pointed out, the $2.8 billion award is not intended to measure the losses suffered by Band Class members, as that would be an impossible task.”

He called the settlement “historic” and “transformational,” adding that the settlement does not exempt the federal government from future lawsuits related to children who die or go missing in residential schools.

“I am satisfied that the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interests of Band Class members. The settlement agreement is therefore approved,” McDonald said.

The federal government initially settled with the plaintiffs in January, but the Federal Court also had to approve the settlement.

The lawsuit was originally filed in B.C. by two First Nations, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and shishalh more than a decade ago, for members who were ineligible for a 2006 settlement reached between Canada and full-time students in schools.

Former Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Shane Gottfriedson spoke at a settlement approval hearing in Vancouver in February.

Gottfriedson, one of the original plaintiffs in the case, told McDonald that reaching a settlement with the federal government “means everything” to him and that “it’s time for Canada to step aside” and let First Nations decide for themselves how to restore housing. from the building. schools program.

The settlement now goes into an appeals period, after which the money will be transferred to a non-profit fund managed by a council of indigenous leaders.

Each of the affected indigenous communities must decide what to do with their settlement funds based on the four pillars of the agreement; revitalization and protection of indigenous culture; protection and promotion of heritage; and the well-being of indigenous communities and their members.

McDonald’s decision also states that the funds and their proceeds may not be used to finance individuals or commercial enterprises, as collateral to secure loans or as security.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 9, 2023.

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