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Supreme Court upholds residential-school compensation for former student

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  • OTTAWA — A former residential-school student is entitled to compensation for abuse at the hands of a nun, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a decision that helps clarify the scope of appeals in such cases.

    The decision came Friday in the case of an Indigenous man, known only as J.W. due to privacy considerations, who said he was assaulted at a residential school in Manitoba.

    For over a century, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were required to attend residential schools, primarily run by religious institutions and funded by the federal government.

    Students were not allowed to use their languages or cultural practices.

    Former pupils provided accounts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as part of an independent assessment process to determine how they would be compensated for what they went through, a program that flowed from a major 2006 settlement agreement aimed at ensuring a lasting resolution of the residential schools legacy.

    J.W.’s claim was rejected by an adjudicator on the grounds that he had failed to show the nun’s alleged act — grabbing his penis while he was lightly clothed, waiting in line for a shower — had a sexual purpose.

    His efforts to have the decision overturned by other adjudicators failed, but a Manitoba judge found fault with the internal decisions and sent the case back to the initial adjudication phase. A reconsideration adjudicator decided in J.W.’s favour in September 2016, awarding him $12,720.

    Meanwhile, however, the federal government successfully challenged the judge’s ruling in the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which said that, under the terms of the assessment process, judges can’t carry out detailed reviews of adjudication decisions.

    In its decision Friday, the Supreme Court said the courts can intervene if there is a failure to apply the terms of the settlement agreement.

    However, in looking at the specific facts of J.W.’s case, only five of seven judges agreed that his appeal should succeed and that he could be compensated. Of the five, the judges split along two lines of reasoning.

    In writing for three members of the court, Justice Rosalie Abella said while claimants in the assessment process do not have a “broad right” to judicial intervention, “they do have a right to the implementation of the terms of the settlement they bargained for.”

    “The courts’ supervisory power must permit intervention when it is necessary to ensure the benefits promised are delivered.”

    Abella lauded the 2006 settlement agreement as a respectful part of the healing process following a profoundly shameful era in Canada’s history.

    The legacy of abuse committed at residential schools consists of “deep wounds not only to those who were forced to attend, but also to our national psyche,” she wrote. “The recovery process, when it is possible, is slow and painful.”

    — Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

    Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press



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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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