Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools healing and commemoration

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In 2007 and 2008, five class action lawsuits were filed against Canada and other parties in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, with respect to residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. These provincially-administered boarding schools were attended by Inuit, Innu and NunatuKavut individuals. Plaintiffs in these lawsuits claimed sexual and physical abuse, neglect, language and cultural loss as a result of attending the boarding schools.

The residential schools and the timelines covered by the claims period are:

  • Lockwood School: April 1, 1949 to June 30, 1964 (Cartwright, Labrador)
  • Makkovik Boarding School: April 1, 1949 to June 30, 1960 (Makkovik, Labrador)
  • Nain Boarding School: April 1, 1949 to June 30, 1973 (Nain, Labrador)
  • St. Anthony Orphanage and Boarding School: April 1, 1949 to June 30, 1979 (St. Anthony, Newfoundland)
  • Yale School: April 1, 1949 to June 30, 1980 (Northwest River, Labrador)

The schools were administered by the province and operated by the International Grenfell Association and the Moravian Mission. Canada’s role was in providing funding to the province to be used for the educational needs of Indigenous students in Labrador.

The trial began on September 28, 2015. On November 25, 2015, following an agreement between the province and the plaintiffs, the court released Newfoundland and Labrador from the action.

In February 2016, the parties agreed to an adjournment in an effort to move the litigation towards a resolution. These discussions subsequently led to the negotiation of an out-of-court settlement between the parties.

On September 28, 2016, upon conclusion of the Fairness Hearing, and at the request of the parties, Justice Stack of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador approved the settlement agreement as fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class members.

Under the terms of the settlement, Canada provided a lump sum payment of $50 million to plaintiffs as compensation for attendance at the residential schools as well as for serious abuse claims. As part of the settlement agreement, Canada provided funds to the three Indigenous groups to conduct their own healing and commemoration initiatives. The settlement agreement also includes healing and commemoration initiatives identified by former students. This approach has enabled former students, together with their counsel, to formulate a settlement which respects the terms most satisfactory to them, one which recognizes the needs of the former students from their own perspective.

About the Prime Minister’s apology

Through settlement negotiations, former students indicated that they were hurt and frustrated by their exclusion from the 2008 Indian Residential Schools Apology given by Prime Minister Harper, and clearly stated that an official apology is essential to their healing and ability to move forward.

On August 3, 2017, the Government of Canada met with representative plaintiffs, their counsel and interested Indigenous stakeholder organizations to collaboratively determine the themes and considerations that should form part of an official apology, as well as the ceremony which accompanied its delivery. Feedback on an official apology was also solicited from all former students through mail-outs and subsequent in-person meetings.

On November 24, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau apologized to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools and their families in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. At the same time, the Prime Minister officially launched the healing and commemoration portion of the settlement agreement. This apology is an important step on the path to reconciliation between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Read the apology given by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. The apology is also available in Inuttitut and Innu-Aimun.

Healing and commemoration

Canada is separately funding healing and commemoration initiatives to honour former students and commemorate their residential school experiences. These initiatives were identified by former students, through an advisory panel of representative plaintiffs from the three Indigenous groups, their counsel and representatives from the Government of Canada.

On May 10, 2017, Ministerial Special Representative James Igloliorte was appointed to lead the healing and commemoration portion of the settlement agreement. Mr. Igloliorte is a retired provincial judge, class member and Inuk man who is a lifetime resident of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Igloliorte is working closely with former students, their families and communities and the local Indigenous groups — Nunatsiavut Government, NunatuKavut Community Council and the Innu Nation, as well as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and others — to ensure initiatives are carried out respectfully, with the participation of interested former students, and are in line with the agreement and projected time frames.

Commemoration initiatives include:

  • lapel pins featuring art designed by an Indigenous artist in order to honour former students and commemorate their experiences
  • commemorative plaques for each of the five communities where the schools stood, as well as a sixth plaque in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
  • a traveling exhibit focused on the history of the schools and experiences of former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools
  • a historical account of the residential schools and former students’ experiences, including the identification of documents related to the schools
  • the production of Indigenous artwork.

Healing initiatives include:

  • community healing sessions for Inuit, Innu and NunatuKavut former students in Nain, Northwest River, Hopedale, Cartwright, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Postville, Makkovik, Rigolet, St. John’s, and Ottawa in 2018
  • funding for Indigenous groups (Nunatsiavut Government, Innu Nation and NunatuKavut Community Council) to do healing and commemoration work
  • an account of the legacy of the Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools through Ministerial Special Representative James Igloliorte’s final report
  • recommendations in the final report related to the legacy of the schools and the Government of Canada’s approach to resolving Indigenous childhood claims litigation

Community healing sessions

Community healing sessions will take place over three days in each community. They will begin with an open community feast on the first day, followed by a sharing session and individual sessions on the second and third days, respectively. These events are designed for former students to tell the stories of their residential school experiences in their own ways. Former students may also attend and simply listen, or participate in other ways. It is their choice. Former students will choose whether or not to have their stories recorded and preserved for educational purposes and for future generations.

Community healing sessions have been designed in consultation with former students and Indigenous groups and will be unique to each community and its needs. Each healing session will be facilitated by the Ministerial Special Representative and include health support workers as well as Elder and ceremonial support, as appropriate for each community.

Each session will begin with the lighting of the memory candles that were also lit at the Prime Minister’s apology to honour and remember former students who have passed on. A memory book dedicated to those who have passed on will be available to former students at each healing session.

Schedule of community healing sessions

April 23 to 25, 2018 Makkovik, NL
April 27 to 29, 2018 St. John’s, NL
May 14 to 16, 2018 Rigolet, NL

Any changes to the community healing session schedule will be posted online. Please check back to ensure sessions have not been re-scheduled due to inclement weather.

Community healing sessions are open to all Inuit, NunatuKavut and Innu former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools.

If there is no healing session scheduled for your community, and there are former students in your community who wish to have their stories recorded, please let us know:

Biography of James Igloliorte, Ministerial Special Representative

James Igloliorte of Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador is a retired provincial court judge. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education from Memorial University, Newfoundland in 1974. He and his wife, Linda Carter, then started their career as teachers on the west coast of Newfoundland.

Appointed first as a lay magistrate in 1980, he took responsibility of the Labrador court and circuit system and then completed law school at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1985. He then returned to take up duties in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as a circuit judge, a position which he held for the majority of his career. James Igloliorte was a 1999 National Aboriginal Achievement Award recipient in the category of Law and Justice. He stepped down from the bench in 2004.

In addition to his impressive legal career, James Igloliorte is a past Labrador Director with the Innu Healing Foundation and was a commissioner with the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada. He has also worked as Newfoundland and Labrador’s child and youth advocate and was commissioner of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission in Nunavut.

James Igloliorte and his wife, Linda Carter, live in St. John’s, Newfoundland and have four children and five grandchildren.

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