Public meetings with other First Nations will begin early in 2013 as the Kamloops and Sechelt Indian Bands continue to seek redress for residential-school day scholars.
Even if no one else joins the campaign, this is a fight Tk’emlups (the Kamloops Band) and the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) will not abandon, said Jo-Anne Gottfriedson, day scholar coordinator for Tk’emlups, during an update by the two Bands in Kamloops Oct. 25.
“We will go full steam ahead,” she said.
About 102 people attended a meeting about the day scholar issue in the Tk’emlups Band’s gymnasium last Thursday.
First Nations from across Canada were invited to take part, with chiefs coming from as far away as Manitoba. Gottfriedson said the meeting focused on political strategies and how best to gain support for a class-action lawsuit.
To do this, Tk’emlups and the SIB will host information sessions with Bands that had residential schools while chiefs Shane Gottfriedson and Garry Feschuk will lobby groups like the National First Nations Assembly and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, she said.
“There was a lot of interest shown and verbalized,” Gottfriedson said.
Feschuk noted First Nations people who were day scholars or are descendants of day scholars will likely have until the end of January to decide if they want to join the class-action suit, which was filed in federal court on Aug. 15.
He said the two initiating Indian Bands wanted to “go the federal route” to ensure all First Nations people affected across Canada could join in.
The next step for the lawsuit is certification.
“Canada has named their lawyers and they have a period of time to file their statement of defence. Once they file their statement of defence, then Sechelt and Kamloops and whoever else is going to join us will file for certification,” Feschuk said. “Once it becomes certified, then we know we’ll get the government’s attention, whether we’re going to take them to court or whether they’re going to want to negotiate a settlement.”
Tk’emlups and the SIB launched the lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of students who were forced to attend residential schools during the day and experienced the same abuses and loss of culture and language as classmates who lived at the schools.
The lawsuit claims an injustice was done to First Nations students who were excluded from the 2007 federal compensation package for former residential school students.
— With files from Kamloops Daily News