Court rejects Indian Day School settlement appeal; compensation application period still delayed

Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya. (File photo/CKLB).

Indian Day School class action members will need to wait a little bit longer to apply for compensation.

Late last week, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa, the chief of the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan, a First Nations community 250 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

The Federal Court approved the proposed settlement after a three-day hearing in Ottawa.

Main concerns

According to the court of appeal’s decision documents, Chief Ottawa had a handful of concerns with the lawsuit.

First, class action members have two and a half years to submit their claims for compensation. Chief Ottawa believed that was too short given the documentation needed to submit a claim.

Second, Gowling is the firm representing day school survivors. Chief Ottawa questioned the firm’s budget and capacity to provide legal services for all class action members, saying it was less than the settlement for Indian Residential School survivors.

Finally, he said his community did not have enough time to review the settlement agreement because French documents were only provided a few days before the approval hearing in August. He also raised the lack of French-speaking lawyers that work at Gowling.

Ultimately, Judge Marianne Rivoalen dismissed the appeal because she questioned Chief Ottawa’s ability to “fairly and adequately represent the Class on appeal.” She added, “I am not satisfied that the appeal is itself in the best interests of the Class.”

Now Chief Ottawa has two months to ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

“Unless Chief Ottawa decides to waive his right to approach the Supreme Court, the claims process will remain stalled for at least the next two months,” said Gowling in a news release. Chief Ottawa also has a second appeal that is still pending before the court of appeal.

Until then, class action members will need to wait to submit their paperwork for compensation.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.