Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 21, 2001
Residential school lawsuits settled in B.C., Sask.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The recent settlement of four residential school cases in B.C. and Saskatchewan, "highlights the need or importance to address the issue in a more global way," said Edmonton lawyer John Gill.
But, he added, "It doesn't take us any quicker to a resolution."
Gill, who represents both the Grandin Province Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Edmonton Archdiocese, said the blame for the length of time it is taking to settle native lawsuits should be placed on the process, not the churches.
In the past three years, more than 6,500 lawsuits involving residential schools have been filed. The majority of suits have been filed against the federal government, and the Anglican, Roman Catholic and United churches.
Given the sheer volume of suits, Gill said, "the trickling of three or four cases through the courts does little to promote healing."
In the first residential school settlement involving living plaintiffs, three British Columbia men settled out of court with the federal government and the United Church.
Vernon Fowler and a man referred to as K.C., both of Terrace, B.C., and Sylvester Green of Vancouver had said they suffered physical and sexual abuse and were threatened into silence while students at the Edmonton Indian Residential School.
The federal government and the United Church jointly ran the Edmonton school from 1923 to 1968.
The terms of the settlement were not released due to a confidentiality agreement.
In Saskatchewan, a man referred to as H.L. in court documents was awarded $376,400 for abuse he suffered at the hands of William Starr, a convicted pedophile and school supervisor at the Gordon Indian Residential School outside Regina.
Although he was not a student at the school, he had joined the school's boxing club, which was supervised by Starr.
Justice John Klebuc of the Court of Queen's Bench found that extending residential school services into native communities was a deliberate policy of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
The direct result of that policy made the school a hub for native communities in the area, and Klebuc wrote in his decision, "non-resident students who came to enjoy activities sponsored by Canada were exposed and subjected to Starr's authority."
The award by Klebuc is the highest reported payment to date.
Gill says, "All of these cases are determined on the individual set of circumstances in each case." And this means, "Lawyers will continue to follow each individual case."
Responding to criticism that it is foot dragging by the churches that is causing the long delays, Gill stated, "there's never been a denial that if something happened then some compensation is appropriate."
But everyone, he added, "agrees there should be some validation process."
Calls for the churches to "write cheques," he maintains, is "missing the point. We need to find a way to address this on a more global scale rather than one case at a time."
Pointing to the case in Regina, Gill suggests that the government should take note, "The clear message is that the federal government has a key responsibility in all this.
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