Healing 'can begin' over
back $1.9B pact
, SUN MEDIA
December 16, 2006
CALGARY -- A
$1.9-billion settlement between the federal government and former native
residential school students was granted court approval yesterday.
unprecedented move, judges in several jurisdictions, including Alberta,
released rulings approving the deal for tens of thousands of plaintiffs.
Justice Terrence McMahon, who okayed the agreement for Alberta litigants, said
the pact will remove any risk the plaintiffs had of not proving their cases.
litigation carries certain legal risks ... here the risk to the plaintiffs was
great," said McMahon, noting some claims sought damages for novel actions,
such as cultural genocide.
defendants might have argued that the operation of the schools met the
prevailing standards in the early years in which they operated," he said,
in a written judgment.
In May, the
federal government approved a $1.9-billion sum for the estimated 79,000 former residential
school students - with each litigant receiving a minimum $10,000.
independent assessment process was also established where those who were
physically or sexually abused could receive up to another $275,000, plus lost
as many as 15,000 people may have such claims and the total payout could exceed
the $1.9 billion earmarked for the common experience claims.
Bench judge noted time was not on the side of the plaintiffs, many of whom are
many of them have died since the actions began," McMahon said.
Marshall, who represents more than 620 of the 3,950 Alberta litigants, said the
court approval means those wronged can soon get some closure.
the beginning of the last chapter where some of the healing can begin,"
approving the agreement, McMahon had to certify the Alberta claims as a class
action, meaning the deal is binding on anyone who doesn't opt out.
class action, court approval is mandatory," Marshall said.
means any of the nearly 80,000 surviving residential school students are
entitled to compensation even if they haven't filed lawsuits.
which were run by religious groups under the federal government's authority, operated
from 1920 to 1997.