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Call to Action # 29: Justice (25-42)

Class action seeks compensation for Indigenous day school survivors in Quebec

January 4, 2024

Lawsuit seeks $20K on behalf of each survivor who attended provincially run schools

documents on a table
A class-action lawsuit that was approved in Quebec seeks compensation for Indigenous day school survivors who attended provincial institutions. (Matthew Lapierre/CBC)

CBC News: A new class-action lawsuit is seeking compensation for Indigenous people who attended day schools in Quebec that were under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. 

A Quebec Superior Court judge authorized the lawsuit last month on behalf of Indigenous people who allege they received lower-quality education than other Quebecers and that abuse was rampant at these institutions.

The lawsuit differs from a 2019, $1.47-billion settlement between the federal government and survivors of federally run schools. That settlement excluded provincially run schools.

“It is still important to have this class action,” Marie-Eve Dumont, a lawyer at Dionne Schulze, a Montreal firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in an interview. “There are actually a lot of people who didn’t get compensation for what they suffered in day schools because it was under the responsibility of the province of Quebec or school boards and not under the sole responsibility of Canada.”

The class action includes any Indigenous person who attended day school in Quebec on a reserve between 1951 and 2014 or in an Inuit village from 1963 to 1978.

Two lead plaintiffs, who are identified in court documents only by their initials, allege they suffered abuse in the schools.

One of those plaintiffs, A. Je., attended a day school in Lac-Simon, Que., where she suffered “physical, psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of school employees.” The court documents say she also witnessed abuse inflicted on other students. She described the school environment as “hellish.” 

Dumont said the lawsuit seeks $20,000 in damages for each class member for “common experience damages,” which include things like loss of language and culture.  However, she said they will seek additional money for Indigenous day school survivors who suffered abuse.

Kenneth Deer, a Kanien’kehá:ka elder and activist who attended a federally run day school, said the class action on behalf of Quebec-run day-school survivors would help right a wrong because they didn’t get compensation under the 2019 settlement. 

“I think that it was unfair that this group was left off the other settlement and now it’s Quebec’s turn to face the music,” he said. “Quebec was carrying out the same genocidal policies of the Canadian government so they have to now compensate all those children that they damaged while they were in Quebec schools.”

Deer was eligible for compensation under the 2019 settlement, which was set at $10,000 — too low, in his opinion. He said he hoped the participants in the Quebec class action would get more.  “I think it’s underestimated the damage that the schools did to us,” he said. 

The suit could still be appealed by Quebec’s Justice Ministry, which declined to comment on the class action’s approval.

If it is not appealed, the suit will be heard on its merits, Dumont said.

She said she anticipates there being thousands of class members, considering the number of people who attended the schools in Quebec over the six decades they were operating.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour service at 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat.


Matthew Lapierre, Journalist

Matthew Lapierre is a digital journalist at CBC Montreal. He previously worked for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. You can reach him at

With files from The Canadian Press and Valeria Cori-Manocchio