Aboriginals who attended day schools also want redress for lost languages abuse
VANCOUVER — Strappings, beatings with a pointed stick and orders to stand in the classroom corner for speaking her own language were among “horrific” measures that erased Darlene Bulpit’s ability to pass along her First Nations heritage to her two children and three grandchildren.
The 66-year-old from the Shishalh Indian band, on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, was allowed to go home at night and grins when she recalls learning to hunt with her brothers and bringing home “the prize.”
Each morning she trudged back to school with dread.
As a day scholar for eight years, Bulpit said she suffered similar harms as thousands of aboriginals who survived the residential school system. Yet unlike her peers, she was excluded from the federal government’s historic apology in July 2008 and was never awarded compensation.
The woman is among hundreds of First Nations plaintiffs who attended the notorious schools by day and now want to sue the Canadian government contending they were overlooked in the reconciliation process.
A Federal Court judge began hearing arguments on Monday by two B.C. Indian bands aiming to certify a class-action lawsuit for compensation. At least 300 survivors have been identified, but it’s expected there are many more across the country.
“It’s not over,” Bulpit said outside court. “We all experienced the same situation. I’m seeking justice from government and a real apology.”
Three separate streams will be considered by the court: for former day students, for their descendants and for bands impacted by members who attended residential schools as day students.
All students who were physically or sexually abused regardless of status at the schools were entitled to compensation under a legal agreement when the government acknowledged its role and produced a $1.9 billion package.
B.C. aboriginals hope to represent residential school day students in lawsuit
But those children expunged of language and culture during the day were ignored, including those in the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Shishalh Indian bands in B.C., lawyer Peter Grant, who represents the plaintiffs, told the judge.
He said the honour of the Crown is at stake when it comes to fulfilling its legal obligation within the reconciliation framework.
“The harm goes deeper ΓÇª than physical or sexual abuse,” Grant told the court in his opening remarks.
“As Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper said in the apology, the legacy of the residential schools is one of the loss of entire cultures. Language is no longer spoken, people broken and unable to celebrate their heritage.
“These deeper harms affect all aboriginal children, not just those who were in residence, all of those who were in the schools.”
Grant said he will present evidence during the week-long hearing that illustrates culture was eradicated in the same way for day scholars as those who lived at the schools.
Under the government’s policy of assimilation and pursuit of teaching only English, French and Christianity, it no longer had to forcibly remove children from their homes to have the same effect, he said.
Children were beaten and sometimes forced to put needles in their mouths. The results were considered a success by the schools. Parents stopped speaking to their children in their own language, Grant said.
Prior to the hearing, the legal teams looked on as the courtroom was blessed, a ceremonial song was performed and several regional chiefs donning headdress were introduced to the gallery by Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde.
Harpers 2008 residential school apology affirms day scholar case
Sechelt (shíshálh) and Kamloops (Tk’emlups) First Nations will be in federal court next week to seek certification for their class action lawsuit on behalf of day scholars — but the case could have been settled years ago if Prime Minister Stephen Harper lived up to his own words, shíshálh Nation councillor and hereditary chief Garry Feschuk
(?ákístá) said Tuesday.
Although day scholars were not directly acknowledged in Harper’s June 11, 2008 apology for residential schools, and were denied compensation under the Common Experience Payment (CEP) fund extended to former resident students, Feschuk said a section of the apology clearly applied to day scholars as well as other survivors.
“If they followed through on this section of his apology, we wouldn’t even be here today,” he said. “We would have been moving on from the experience.”
In the key section, which Feschuk quoted in his affidavit as lead plaintiff on behalf of the band, Harper said: “We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions, that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this.
“We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this.
“We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you. Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.
“The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long,” the section concluded. “The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country.”
Feschuk said the section summarized the whole residential school era, and it made no sense for the government to arbitrarily exclude day scholars as a group.
“These children were powerless in those schools and when they came out they were powerless as parents, because those same cycles of abuses were handed down from generation to generation,” he said.
“If the prime minister is sincere about his apology, why are we having to go back to court to implement what they agreed to in the apology?”
Councils from both First Nations and a contingent of surviving day scholars will attend the hearing in Vancouver, which starts Monday, April 13 and is scheduled for five days. Five plaintiffs from each band were scheduled to testify.
“Unfortunately, because this has taken so long, one of the plaintiffs from the Kamloops side has already passed on,” Feschuk said. “There’s a couple of plaintiffs from our side who aren’t well enough to actually testify, but they do have their affidavits in.”
The class action suit was launched in 2012 and withstood repeated appeal attempts on jurisdiction by the federal government. Last summer, plaintiffs and expert witnesses retained by both sides — including linguists, historians and psychologists — were cross-examined. “And now all that information is going before the judge.”
In two referendums, in 2012 and 2013, shíshálh members approved allocating a total of $915,000 for legal costs related to the case.
“We’re hoping to get our costs back if it gets certified and there’s a settlement in the end,” Feschuk said.
The amount of compensation sought by the two bands is yet to be determined. Resident students who were deemed eligible for compensation from the CEP fund received $10,000 for the first year of school and $3,000 for each subsequent year.
Three classes of plaintiffs are seeking redress in the litigation: the survivor class, comprising more than 100 residential school day scholars from Sechelt and 200 from Kamloops; the descendant class, who are children and descendants of the survivor class; and the band class, representing the entirety of the shíshálh and Tk’emlups bands for loss of language and culture.
Feschuk said he expects the court’s decision will come down in the fall. If the class action is certified, “either Canada will want to negotiate a settlement or it will go to trial to reach a settlement.”
There could also be appeals, he added.
“In the end, I really believe that everybody has to recognize the truth, because it’s in the prime minister’s apology. And this is where I don’t understand why we can’t move forward, why everybody has to relive their experiences in order to seek justice from the government.”
The Sechelt residential school operated from 1904 — not 1912, as some online sources claim — to 1975. Students from 48 different First Nations attended the school.
New Gold Tailings Spill
Crews are cleaning up at New Afton mine just south of Kamloops after a tailings pond spill. An official with New Gold confirms 16 cubic metres, or 16,000 litres, of slurry leaked out of a pipe valve and onto the company’s property last night. The pipe is used to switch the effluent from a storage area to the tailings pond. Clean up efforts are underway, and it’s not known how long it will take to fully clean up the spill. A company spokesperson couldn’t say what chemicals are contained in the slurry from the mine. An Environment Ministry spokesperson says there is no concern about groundwater contamination. The spill was contained to a ditch on the company’s property and is being excavated.
CFJC News has a crew on scene and will have more details starting at 5pm on CFJC News
Saying Goodbye to John Jules
Saying Goodbye to John Jules – Daily News Reporter – Jasen Hewlett
“It resembles John’s spirit and the light helps guide his way to the other side,” said William.
He and Raw Eater were among a group charged with keeping the flame lit since Saturday, when Jules, 56, died at Royal Inland Hospital after battlinginoperable cancer.
“He commanded a lot of respect. Look at all these people,” he said, and gestured at the crowd outside the centre.
William said Jules was known for the sweat lodges he hosted at his home. Many were for First Nations youth Jules tried to rescue from drugs and alcohol.
“He helped them get sober, find sobriety,” he said.
Chief Shane Gottrfriedson said the wake, which lasted for several days, was a testament to Jules’s stature as a proud community leader.
“He led by example. He was a true leader. He didn’t just talk about things. He had a vision and a strategy,” he said.
Jules served as the Tk’emlups Indian Band’s cultural resource manager for a number of years and more recently as director of operations for the Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation, the organization behind the economic development agreement with New Gold. He also oversaw repatriation ceremonies for more than 400 ancestors.
As a dancer, he was well known on the powwow circuit, serving as a keeper of the flame, a pipe carrier in the ceremonial sense, a founder of the Kamloopa Pow Wow and a central figure in three drum groups.
Jules’s body was taken to St. Joseph’s by a procession of more than 200 people, some on horseback. RCMP escorted the group along the Yellowhead Highway.
Hundreds of people passed through the gymnasium at the Chief Louis Centre Thursday to bid a final goodbye to John Jules in a ceremony bringing to an end days of mourning.
But an act of remembrance of equal importance was carried out in a field not far from the drumming and prayers, as nephews Earl William, 33, and Yogi Raw Eater, 28, tended a fire containing their uncle’s spirit.
The fire continued to burn until he was buried alongside his ancestors at St. Joseph’s Church on Chilcotin Street late Thursday. At that point, all the remaining logs were thrown on in a final celebration.
“It will be a bonfire then,” William said earlier in the day.
Every day, before every meal, a plate of food was fed to the fire. William said that represented Jules having his dinner. It was done before anyone else could eat.
The fire also acted as a meeting place. William said people sat, shared a smoke and told stories about Jules, considered a cultural luminary of the Shuswap Nation.
William and Raw Eater contributed to the stories, saying Jules’s boisterous laugh was often heard long before he crossed a threshold. Raw Eater said his uncle was a powerful presence despite his small size.