March 21, 2023

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might face a subpoena to testify as a witness throughout a trial scheduled to start this month for a class-action lawsuit looking for reparations for the cultural devastation wreaked by residential faculties, courtroom information present. 

Attorneys representing 325 First Nations — greater than half of all acknowledged First Nations within the nation —  are looking for to subpoena Trudeau and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller to take the witness stand by way of Zoom and face questions on the sincerity of residential school-related statements they’ve made prior to now.

These embody statements by each Trudeau and Miller that Canada’s coverage on residential faculties was to “assimilate.”

“There seems to be a contradiction between what the prime minister has mentioned publicly and the positions that Canada is taking in courtroom,” mentioned shíshálh Nation Coun. Selina August.

 “We and the courts have to know what Canada’s precise positions are.” 

The shíshálh Nation and Tk’emlups te’ Secwepemc initiated the authorized motion a decade in the past. 

Justice Canada to oppose subpoenas

A movement on looking for the subpoenas is anticipated to be filed by the top of the week, mentioned John Phillips, from the Toronto-based agency Waddell-Phillips, one in every of three corporations concerned within the case.

Justice Canada indicated in a letter filed with the Federal Court docket it plans to oppose the subpoenas. 

“Canada’s place is that such subpoenas can’t be granted with out go away and that such go away shouldn’t be offered within the circumstances,” mentioned the letter, signed by Lorne Lachance, senior counsel with Justice Canada. 

shíshálh Nation Coun. Selina August says there’s a hole between what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says publicly and what Canada argues in courtroom on residential faculties. (Selina August)

Nonetheless, Miller’s workplace mentioned in an emailed assertion that Justice Canada has not been given any directions “on how Canada would reply to the issuance of the subpoenas.” 

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The assertion mentioned the federal authorities is “dedicated to justice and therapeutic” from the “trauma skilled because of residential faculties,” which it mentioned was “shameful.”

The Prime Minister’s Workplace referred to the assertion from Miller’s workplace.

Firstclass motion of its sort

The trial is scheduled to start earlier than the Federal Court docket in Vancouver on Sept. 12 and run till November. The primary section of the method will revolve round arguments to ascertain Canada’s legal responsibility, and the second section will deal with damages.

That is the primary residential school-related lawsuit looking for reparations from the federal authorities for the impression residential faculties had on Indigenous nations as a complete. 

The authorized motion states Canada benefited from the impression of residential faculties, which fractured communities, destroyed tradition, suppressed languages and weakened the maintain of Indigenous nations over “their conventional lands and assets.”

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller mentioned Justice Canada has not been given any directions on how to reply to subpoenas. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

All earlier residential school-era associated litigation centered on compensation for harms and abuse suffered by people. 

The declare for reparations was initially a part of a broader lawsuit filed in 2012 by the Tk’emlups te’ Secwepemc and shíshálh Nation in B.C. — together with residential college survivors referred to as day students — who have been compelled to attend Kamloops Indian Residential Faculty and Sechelt Indian Residential Faculty.

The category-action lawsuit, licensed in 2015, was cut up into two claims — one for day students and one for the First Nations looking for reparations — in August 2020. The federal authorities introduced a settlement with day students in June 2021. 

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WATCH | Settlement reached in residential college ‘day students’ lawsuit:

Settlement reached at school motion by residential college survivors

The federal government introduced a settlement at this time with 1000’s of former residential college ‘day students.’ A have a look at their lengthy struggle for compensation and different lawsuits nonetheless in progress.

‘Canada must bear the burden’

Phillips mentioned Trudeau and Miller have to testify as a result of Justice Canada attorneys have refused to verify or deny whether or not their statements on the impacts of residential college are true. 

“These statements from Trudeau and Miller go on to the problem of legal responsibility,” mentioned Phillips.

“They are saying that Canada had a coverage, they are saying that Canada’s coverage precipitated injury to the people and to the collectives and communities … and Canada must bear the burden.”

For instance, on June 25, 2021, Trudeau mentioned Canada’s residential college coverage “ripped children from their properties, from their communities, from their tradition and their language and compelled assimilation upon them.”

On Jan. 27, 2021, Miller mentioned residential faculties aimed to “assimilate” and have been “layered with a non secular fervour … to transform peoples who nonetheless have vibrant cultures — in some circumstances which have been ripped away from them.”

In courtroom filings, the federal authorities has denied the existence of “a single residential college coverage,” and mentioned that any impacts on cultures and languages “weren’t because of any illegal acts or omissions of Canada or its workers or brokers with respect to the operation of residential faculties.”

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August says her nation lives with the direct impression of the federal authorities’s actions on daily basis. She mentioned the final of her nation’s fluent Sháshíshálhem audio system have died and all they’ve left are recordings, a legacy immediately traced to residential faculties. 

“It’s going to take as much as seven generations to revive all of that. That’s how lengthy it took to take it away from us,” she mentioned. 

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to make us entire and full. I simply know it can take an extended, very long time.”