Historic settlement reached in Indian Day School class action launched by Gowling WLG

Earlier this week in Ottawa, the federal government announced that it had reached a landmark settlement in a class proceeding brought by representative plaintiffs on behalf of former students of Indian Day Schools and their families. Gowling WLG filed the claim in 2016 and was certified as class counsel in 2018.

The historic class-action suit seeks to redress the damages and abuses suffered by Indigenous students forced to attend federally operated Indian Day Schools across Canada.

Nearly 200,000 Indigenous children attended more than 700 Day Schools, which were operated separately from Residential Schools. Former Day School Students were excluded from the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

"Over the last two and a half years, my team and I have travelled across Canada, hearing countless stories of the terrible abuses endured by former Indian Day School students," said partner Robert Winogron, who led the Gowling WLG team on the file. "Although nothing can erase the harm done, we're pleased with the settlement in that it offers a small modicum of justice to those who suffered during this dark period in our country's history." 

The proposed settlement, which is awaiting approval from the federal court, will apply to everyone who attended an Indian Day School. Compensation for individuals will range from $10,000 to a maximum of $200,000. The settlement will also include a $200M legacy fund intended to support commemoration projects, health and wellness programs, as well as language and cultural initiatives for affected communities.

Along with Winogron, a Gowling WLG team that included partners Jeremy Bouchard, Brian Crane and Mary Thomson represented the class on the file. Joshua Shoemaker, John Wilson and our assistants, clerks and call centre staff also made significant contributions.

Since the 1950s, Gowling WLG has been at the forefront of Indigenous law in Canada. The firm has worked alongside Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in landmark self-government agreements, resource development projects and Supreme Court cases. Gowling WLG is one of the only full-service law firms in Canada that acts for Indigenous clients as well as private industry, project proponents and all levels of government. Learn more about our Indigenous law group.