A legal victory by the Windigo First Nations Council before the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario has gotten two Ontario schools added to the official list of residential schools, making 600 more former students eligible for compensation and counseling.
In the first such ruling in the country, Chief Justice Warren Winkler added Stirland Lake and Cristal Lake residential high schools to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).
The motion sets parameters for adding schools to the IRSSA and sets a precedent, the Windigo and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) said in a statement.
“This is a good solid victory for not only those who have been directly impacted by these particular schools but also First Nations across the country,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Mike Metatawabin in a statement on August 18. “This landmark decision paves the way for other First Nations people who have been institutionalized to be included in this national settlement and we hope they too will continue to fight for justice.”
This allows the former students to apply for payments available to those who attended one of Canada’s recognized Indian Residential Schools, and to receive an apology from the institution involved. Further compensation is available to those who suffered sexual or physical abuse, NAN and Windigo said in their statement.
Stirland Lake, also known as Wahbon Bay Academy, was a boys’ school that opened in 1971. It was run by Northern Youth Programs Inc., a Mennonite organization, and funded by what is today known as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Cristal Lake High School, for girls, opened in 1976. Both kept students for 10 months of the year and were so remote that they could only be accessed by float plane, the nations said.
Canada rejected the Windigo and NAN request for residential school designation for the two institutions in 2008, and the two parties filed a motion with the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.
Decisions on several other schools' status are still pending, the website Tbnewswatch.com reported.