Court Says Class Action on Schools May Proceed

Article excerpt

In a victory for former students of Indian residential schools, the Ontario Court of Appeal on Dec. 4 ruled unanimously that pupils who attended the Mohawk Institute near Brantford, Ont., may file suit as a group.

Former students, alleging they were subjected to a range of abuses including physical brutality, inadequate food and clothing and forced participation in Christian religious activities, sought to include all 1,400 native children who attended the school between 1922 and 1969.

The class action--the first schools lawsuit in Canada to be certified--names as plaintiffs the government of Canada, the Anglican diocese of Huron and the New England Company, a British charitable organization that operated the school. General Synod (the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada) is not named in the suit which seeks $1 billion in damages.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the national church's general secretary, said in a statement that the decision does not affect the church's settlement agreement with the federal government which capped church liability at $25 million.

In certifying the class action, the court of appeal reversed decisions by lower courts, which had declined to approve a class action on the grounds that the students' abuse claims varied. However, Court of Appeal Justice Stephen Goudge, writing on behalf of the three-judge panel, said the plaintiffs "seek to represent many who are aging, very poor and in some cases still very emotionally troubled by their experiences at the school . …