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Indian day school students seek compensation

By Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, December 13, 2008

NWT - Some residents of Fort Resolution who were involved in Indian day schools can relate to the argument being made by a Manitoba man who said he is launching a class action lawsuit.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Robert Sayine attended Peter Pond school in Fort Resolution for three years. He says he supports the lawsuit. - NNSL file photo

Ray Mason announced Dec. 8 that he plans to sue various levels of the Canadian government. He is seeking compensation for those who attended Indian day schools because the Indian Residential Schools Settlement didn't include them.

"If government is directly or indirectly responsible for the operation of an institute where they put a student, then they are liable for abuses that occurred to students," he said.

Mason, although not a day school attendee himself, chairs Spirit Wind, a residential school advocacy organization. He estimated more than 70,000 students attended day schools across Canada and said the federal government has lent the issue a "deaf ear" so far.

Angus Beaulieu of Fort Resolution went to the residential school at St. Joseph's Parish and didn't attend the community's federal day school.

However, he worked at the federal day school later named Peter Pond school from 1960 until its closure in the early 1970s. He said there wasn't much of a difference between the way students were treated at the mission school and Peter Pond.

"I saw a lot of strappings at Peter Pond school," he said. "They were really, really, really rough. So I don't think there was much difference between the mission school and that one.

"It was pretty rough in the mission school too," he said.

Robert Sayine attended Peter Pond school in Fort Resolution for three years and was not compensated for that time when the Indian Residential Schools Settlement was disbursed earlier this year.

Sayine said he supports the lawsuit.

"I really think they should be paying the day school attenders because it was all the same ... the teachers were the same," he said, adding the teachers at the convent moved over to work at the day school when it was built.

He said he believed there were inconsistencies with how the residential settlement was handed out.

Sayine went to the residential school at St. Joseph's Parish in Fort Resolution for four years and then the Peter Pond school for three, while living at the convent the entire time.

"There were a lot of people that did not get paid for attending day school that are still around today," he said.

He said he received strappings at the day school.

As of Dec. 12, Mason had not filed the class action suit, but said he was about to set off from his home at Peguis First Nation to Winnipeg, about 190 km to the south, to issue the statement of claim.

The class action lawsuit will be against the federal government, and all provincial and territorial governments, he said.

It would be filed for those who attended day schools, residential schools that had yet to be validated by the government, and some home schools. He said he was filing the lawsuit for the "people that really don't have the opportunity to do anything about their situation or their plight because they are at the mercy of Canada and if Canada says no to them, they have no way of going back after them," he said.

He said he did not know what the compensation would like like for day school attenders compared to residential school survivors yet. The residential school package offered former students $10,000 for the first year and $3,000 for each additional year.

"I don't know, but certainly nothing less," Mason said of the comparison.

"I'm not a day schooler myself but I feel bad. I feel guilty when my neighbour or my brother or sister beside me is not getting a cheque and I'm receiving a cheque and they don't get one," said Mason.