Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili has written a letter to Premier Scott Moe, saying residential school survivors deserve an apology and compensation from the province.
The letter speaks specifically about children who attended schools in Timber Bay and Île-à-la-Crosse. It seeks a formal apology from Moe in the legislature on behalf of the Saskatchewan government and for the premier to work with survivors groups to determine appropriate compensation.
“The operation of these two residential schools in Saskatchewan was a dark chapter in the history of our province,” Meili said.
Île-à-la-Crosse was one of Saskatchewan’s oldest Indian Residential Schools, while Indigenous leaders have long called for Timber Bay Children’s Home to be recognized as a residential school under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
Both northern Saskatchewan institutions have been left out of the residential school settlement process, both received partial funding from the provincial government and both were run by religious organizations.
The NDP’s letter also calls on the premier to put pressure on the federal government to ensure Timber Bay is included in the settlement process, allowing for compensation for survivors and their families.
Money should come from both the provincial and federal governments, according to the NDP.
Melli made the announcement Wednesday, joined by northern MLAs Doyle Vermette and Buckley Belanger. Betty Nippi-Albright, critic for Truth and Reconciliation & First Nations and Métis Relations, was also present.
Nippi-Albright and Belanger both identified themselves as residential school survivors.
“It is an atrocity, and we need the people of Saskatchewan to recognize that and we need Moe to stop pointing at Ottawa,” Belanger said.
“He’s got to take responsibility as well.”
The effects of intergenerational trauma can still be seen to this day, according to Nippi-Albright.
“It is long past time that both orders of government fully take responsibility for their respective roles in the abuse, neglect, loss of language and culture and violence that many First Nations and Metis people were subjected to in these institutions,” she said.
In a statement, the Saskatchewan government said it is committed to reconciliation with First Nations and Métis people, having acted on 28 of 34 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission related to provincial authorities. The statement said there are another 15 calls acted upon not directed at the provincial level.
The government also acknowledged litigation related to both institutions dating back as far as 2001.
“This litigation remains before the courts. Similar litigation was also commenced against the federal government. The Government of Saskatchewan respects the rights of those involved to pursue legal action,” the statement reads.
The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear the case regarding Timber Bay’s status as a residential school.
The province also acknowledged lobbying efforts by the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) and Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) toward the federal government to reconsider Timber Bay’s status.
“The province has not been contacted by either LLRIB or PAGC to support their efforts in this regard.”