Survivors of residential school file lawsuit
Former students argue they should be recognized under existing deal with Ottawa, Manitoba
KELLY GERALDINE MALONE
Metroland Media Group Ltd.
CANADA & WORLD
Survivors of a residential school that housed Métis children in Saskatchewan say they are seeking justice through a proposed class-action lawsuit against the federal and provincial governments. The Île-à-la-Crosse Residential Boarding School opened in the 1820s and operated for more than 100 years in the northern village. It burned down in the 1970s. “All we asked was to be treated fairly as survivors,” said Louis Gardiner, who began attending the school when he was five years old. A statement of claim was filed in December in Court of King’s Bench in Saskatoon by Gardiner, three other survivors and two family members of survivors. Survivors said they are suing the governments for the roles they played in operating the school and for breaching legal duties to care for them. No statements of defence have been filed, and the federal government did not immediately comment. The province said in an email that as the matter is before the court, it is unable to comment at this time. Gardiner endured psychological, physical and sexual abuse while attending the Île-à-la-Crosse school from 1961 to 1969, the statement of claim said. He told a news conference Tuesday that he was identified at the school by a number, not his name. He said survivors of the school also experienced a loss of culture and language. “If we were caught speaking our language, the strap was there.” Île-à-la-Crosse is a Métis community and people largely spoke Cree and Michif. Children from neighbouring Dene communities were also sent to the school. The lawsuit says Margaret Aubichon, another plaintiff, also experienced abuse and that she became ashamed of herself and of being a Métis person. Other survivors in the statement of claim also spoke about being taken from their families and filled with fear. The statement also said they were malnourished and uncared for. Survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse Residential Boarding School were not included in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement because the school was determined not to qualify because the Roman Catholic Church ran it through the Sisters of Charity and Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.