A $1.1-billion lawsuit filed by survivors of so-called Indian hospitals is the first step in a process that may never see the inside of a courtroom.
That’s because a lawyer for the class-action says they are open to negotiating with Ottawa directly – something Carolyn Bennett welcomes.
“We hope to be able to get to the table as quickly as possible,” the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations said Tuesday of the court action announced the same day.
“We want justice to be done…Our government is determined to right wrongs and this was a dark chapter in Canada’s history.”
The suit must be certified by a judge and Cooper said no court date has yet been set.
In the meantime, he said lawyers want to hear from potential claimants who were related to or were patients themselves.
“We are collecting information,” Cooper said from his office in Sherwood Park, Alta. “We have people phoning us.”
The suit is seeking $1 billion in general and $100,000 in specific damages for abuses allegedly inflicted at Canada’s segregated ‘Indian hospital’ system from 1945 to 1981.
“We know that a range of things have happened; we know what these things are worth to the law,” he said.
The patients were First Nations, Metis and Inuit children and adults being treated for tuberculosis and other ailments at 29 facilities.
Some allege they were physically and sexually abused and used for medical experimentation at the hospitals they further allege were operated on the cheap with improperly trained staff.
One of those patients was Michael McIvor, who at four years of age was sent to Manitoba’s Ninette Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1952.
His sibling Gerald McIvor of Winnipeg says Michael spent four years there, mostly on bed rest.
“I promised my brother,” Gerald said of why he’s crafting his own class-action lawsuit to pursue compensation for unapproved treatments and experiments he alleges were conducted on patients.
Gerald has started a Facebook group to collect names of alleged victims.
“Our brother was our protector but he didn’t have a protector,” he told APTN Investigates in 2017. “These are little children, humans – not guinea pigs.”
Meanwhile, Cooper says his class-action could benefit from the recent settlement of two others: one for residential school survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador (that his firm handled) and the other for ‘60s Scoop survivors nationally.
“Once the claim is filed, there is nothing stopping us from going into negotiations,” he said.
Cooper said potential victims can contact his firm by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.