KAMLOOPS — After years of litigation, three Canadian First Nations bands have reached a 'Memorandum of Understanding' (MOU) with the Canadian government as they look to have day scholars recognized and included in the government's Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
The Tk'emlups, Sechelt and James Bay Cree bands launched a class action lawsuit in 2012 after a settlement between the Harper government and approximately 86,000 Indigenous residential school survivors excluded day scholars, those who attended residential schools but did not live there.
Tk'emlups Day Scholar Co-ordinator Jo-Anne Gottfriedson says it's hoped the MOU will keep the negotiation out of the courts.
"We hope that we will have a mutual understanding and if not, there's still that litigation process that we can fall back on," said Gottfriedson. "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 estimates 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 gonna move forward on it and work together, acknowledging each other's sovereign governance which is very hopeful," she said.
According to a release, the tenor of negotiations between the plaintiff bands and the Canadian government changed in late 2016, when the government committed to trying to find a settlement outside of the courts.
Gottfriedson says the Trudeau government has been open to working toward 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."
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