It’s nearly official.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced Thursday an “agreement-in-principle” had been reached with former Indian day school students.
“Today marks the historic step in that journey towards reconciliation and healing,” Bennett told a news conference flanked by former students.
One of those students was Gary McLean of Lake Manitoba First Nation, who filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 200,000 survivors.
“We know it’s a new beginning,” McLean told reporters.
“For me, without forgiveness, we know things stay the same.”
Bennett said the final details still had to be worked out and approved by a court.
But she said Canada acknowledged the harms caused by the system that established and guided the schools.
“As a result of the harmful and discriminatory government policies at the time, students who attended these schools were subject to sexual, physical and psychological abuse, and forced to abandon their language and culture,” the minister said.
Compensation will address individual trauma and future healing, Bennett added.
Day school students were forced to attend the federally operated schools during the day but could return home at night – a system that began in the 1920s.
The suit applies to First Nation, Inuit and Métis students.
McLean filed his suit against Canada in 2009.
“Thank you for supporting us to get this far,” he said of his legal team, his family and other supporters.
Bennett said her government was investing $200 million to support healing, wellness, education language, culture and commemoration “for all those affected by Indian day schools.”