N.L. residential schools class action moves to mediation
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Lawyers who filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of former students of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador say they will try to resolve the dispute through mediation.
Ches Crosbie, a lawyer representing some of the 1,000 members of the suit, said Monday that the talks are set to begin June 9. He said the decision to join in settlement negotiations came after discussions with the case management judge.
He said if the parties agree to a settlement in June, it could take months to gain court approval and disperse payments. If it fails, the case will go to trial next September. Crosbie said the trial was scheduled to start last November, but was adjourned after the defence requested delays.
The class of mostly Inuit members is suing the federal government for abuse and neglect members allege they suffered at the residential schools in the province.
They were excluded from a compensation package and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008 after Ottawa denied responsibility for schools that opened before the province joined Confederation in 1949.
The schools were in St. Anthony, Cartwright, North West River, Nain and Makkovik. The International Grenfell Association ran the first three, while the German-based Moravian Missionaries ran the other two.
In its statement of defence responding to the claims, the federal government denies any wrongdoing or responsibility. It says the plaintiffs wrongly suggest the Labrador schools were “akin” to now defunct institutions under the Indian Act that were the subject of the federal Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
That deal, according to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website, had paid out about $4 billion in common experience and independent assessment compensation as of Dec. 31, 2013.