Labradormiut File Class Action Claim for Compensation for Residential School Abuse

by NationTalk on November 23, 20072754 Views

TORONTO, Nov. 22 – While the residential school survivors across Canada are in the process of receiving their Common Experience Payments and applying for increased compensation for the most serious claims of abuse, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunatsiavut have been left out. Over 300 individual survivors of residential schools located throughout Labrador and Northern Newfoundland, have retained Steven Cooper of the law firm of Ahlstrom Wright Oliver & Cooper LLP of Sherwood Park, Alberta and Kirk M. Baert of Koskie Minsky LLP of Toronto, Ontario to represent their interests and that of all similar survivors. Today, a class action was filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador seeking compensation similar to that already agreed upon for survivors in all other parts of Canada. Messrs Cooper and Baert are members of the National Consortium Negotiating Committee which represented over 7500 survivors in negotiations resulting in the settlement of the national class action currently being implemented in the rest of the country. Mr. Cooper’s clients include survivors from across Northern Canada including Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut and elsewhere. Mr. Baert is one of Canada’s leading class action lawyers and represented survivors from across Canada when the class action settlement was presented to 9 provincial and territorial superior courts across Canada.

“I wondered why no one from Labrador showed up at the negotiations. To this day, neither I nor anyone I represent have received a satisfactory explanation as to why Labrador survivors were not included in the settlement package,” said Mr. Cooper, “I was contacted by a small group of residential school survivors from Labrador approximately one year ago and despite a number of attempts to get information from and work with the Nunatsiavut Government, I have heard nothing formally from them. My clients have been told that efforts are being made to include them in the settlement agreement but as far as I can tell, nothing has come of those attempts. In the absence of a political solution, we must look to the courts for equitable treatment for our clients and for all survivors across Newfoundland and Labrador including the area of Nunatsiavut.”

The class action claim will eventually include all residential schools operated by any entity in Newfoundland and Labrador, including those that may have been operated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Government before Confederation in 1949. “Although the claim asks for the same sort of relief as was requested of the Courts across the country, we are looking for nothing more than what has been negotiated on behalf of survivors in the rest of Canada,” notes Mr. Baert. “What we negotiated on behalf of the residential school survivors in the rest of the country is fair compensation for all survivors. Our clients seek nothing other than fair and equal treatment with their fellow survivors across the country.”

“I am happy Mr. Cooper and Mr. Baert have been hired to help people in Labrador. Mr. Cooper has represented survivors in Nunavut for a decade and I know Nunatsiavutmiut(Labradormiut) are in good hands. As someone who grew up in the North, Mr. Cooper understands what we went through and he has worked for us for years without any help from anyone. I hope the Federal Government treats my colleagues in Labrador the same as survivors in the rest of the country. I hope they settle this claim quickly and fairly. I cannot believe they were not included in the current settlement,” said former Nunavut Commissioner and former residential school student Peter Irniq.

Mr. Baert and Mr. Cooper were quick to point out that they continue to hope to work with the representatives of the Nunatsiavut Government but will continue to represent individual clients and their class interests, regardless of what the Nunatsiavut Government may do in the future.

The Government of Canada, under pressure from more than 15,000 individual lawsuits, 21 class actions and pressure from the Assembly of First Nations, agreed formally on May 30, 2005, to enter into settlement negotiations. The negotiations took place over the latter half of 2005 and resulted in a landmark settlement on November 20, 2005. The settlement was ultimately approved by courts across the country from December 2006 to March 2007. Implementation began in late September 2007. Under the settlement currently being implemented across the country, it is expected that approximately 80,000 survivors and their families will share in approximately $5 billion dollars in settlement funds. The funds represent payments to individuals and payments, a truth and reconciliation commission, commemoration funds and healing funds. Under the settlement in operation in the rest of the country, survivors will not only receive a compensation payment based on their years of attendance at residential schools, but up to $525,000.00 each for serious physical and any sexual abuse and resulting economic losses. The process for which claims may be made under the more serious abuse category called the Independent Assessment Process allows for a supportive, private hearing to determine entitlement before an independent adjudicator.

For further information: Steven Cooper at 1-800-994-7477 or (780) 464-7477, (email: steven@awoc.ca; www.awoc.ca); or Kirk M. Baert at (416) 595-2117, (email kbaert@kmlaw.ca; www.kmlaw.ca)

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