(September 19, 2005 — Iqaluit, Nunavut)
The Indian residential school system began in 1870. The Government of Canada operated nearly every school as a joint venture with various religious organizations. The schools were located in every province and territory except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. A total of 130 schools existed over time, and while most residential schools ceased to operate by the mid-1970s, the last federally-run school in Canada closed in 1996.
It is estimated that there are 86,000 people alive today who attended residential schools.
In 1998, the government made a Statement of Reconciliation – including an apology to those people who were sexually or physically abused while attending residential schools – and established the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The Foundation was provided $350 million to fund community-based healing projects focusing on addressing the legacy of Indian residential schools.
Many residential school students have decided to take legal action against the Government of Canada and various religious organizations.
On May 30, 2005, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) signed a political accord with the Government of Canada to resolve the First Nations (Treaty Indians) residential school legacy.
Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci was appointed by the Government of Canada as its representative to negotiate with plaintiffs’ counsel, and work and consult with AFN and counsel for the churches, in order to recommend to Cabinet a settlement package that will address a redress payment for all former students of Indian residential schools, a truth and reconciliation process, community based healing, commemoration, an appropriate alternative dispute resolution process that will address serious abuse, as well as legal fees.
Since July 2005, the parties have met regularly and are scheduled to meet two more times in September.
Iacobucci is expected to make a global settlement proposal to the parties in the fall of 2005.
If the proposal is approved, Iacobucci will recommend the settlement package to Cabinet by March 31, 2006.