Hundreds expected here for Native day school settlement suit update

Philomena Alphonse is hopeful that First Nations day students can also reach a settlement with the provincial government in the same manner as residential school students. - Andrew Leong/file
Philomena Alphonse is hopeful that First Nations day students can also reach a settlement with the provincial government in the same manner as residential school students.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Momentum from the Indian Day School class action suit from Winnipeg will be rolling through Cowichan come Jan. 22.

An update is expected from the lawyers pushing for the suit on Tuesday as well as plenty of information on the specs, the history and background as well as who’s eligible to join, confirmed Kathleen Mazur of the law firm involved, Alghoul and Associates.

“There are still a lot of questions out there,” Mazur said. “And it’s not clear yet if the government will compensate those who attended both day schools and residential schools.”

The suit itself and interest from those involved will hopefully provide answers to just that.

And that’s the hopes of Cowichan elder and former chief Philomena Alphonse.

“I believe day scholars went through the same as the residential survivors,” Alphonse said last week. “I think we didn’t talk about it and I think it’s time now to put that to bed.”

The free workshop, which will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cowichan Exhibition’s Mellor Hall, will be led by special counsel Joan Jack and CEO Louay Alghoul.

Jack, a ringleader for many First Nations issues, was unavailable for comment before deadline. She’s been buzzing around preparing for the Cowichan seminar as well as joining forces with those involved with the Idle No More movement, confirmed Mazur.

Alphonse is looking forward to Jack’s visit as Jack’s played a key role for several years on getting payback for students who attended Indian Day Schools.

The lawsuit aims to close a gap for students attending the schools which operated from roughly 1874 until 1996, and who were denied monetary compensation in the government’s 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) in the same fashion as students residing in the schools.

Alphonse hopes the suit has enough gusto to go all the way.

“We’ve been silent for a long time,” she said. “I don’t want to dwell on the past forever and forever, I just want us to move forward.”

More than 1,000 folks are expected to attend Tuesday’s workshop from Saanich all the way to the north island, Alphonse estimates. Besides Jack acting as one of the main speakers, the agenda may also include former National Chief Phil Fontaine, who’s known for his testimony of physical and sexual abuse at a church-run residential schools.

But Fontaine’s presence hasn’t been set in stone.

“At this point he hasn’t said ‘No’ but it’s not 100 per cent,” Mazur said.

For more information on the event, or for free consultations through Alghoul and Associates, call 1-877-378-4487.

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