Fontaine v. Canada

The Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba released a decision on October 9, 2014 in Fontaine et al. v. Canada (Attorney General) et al., restoring a damages award of $98,074 to a claimant through the Independent Assessment Process ("IAP") that was created under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (the "Agreement").

The claimant had testified that while she was at the Norway House Indian Residential School ("Norway House") she suffered sexual abuse, which led to many harmful consequences in her life including a loss of opportunity. Although she was awarded compensation by the initial adjudicator of her claim, this decision was subsequently reviewed twice and the claimant was found ineligible at each subsequent determination, including a determination from the Chief Adjudicator. The claimant attended Norway House as a student for three years during which she testified that no incident of sexual abuse occurred. However, due to the death of her mother and her father being ill with tuberculosis she was unable to return home even when she was deemed too old to remain a student at Norway House. She instead remained at Norway House as an employee and during this period the incident of sexual abuse occurred, perpetrated by an older white male employee of the school.

The issue addressed in this decision was whether or not the Agreement would cover the incident of sexual abuse that the claimant suffered while she was an employee resident of Norway House as opposed to being a student resident. Although the Court of Queen's Bench agreed with the Chief Adjudicator that not all employees of residential schools could receive compensation under the Agreement, it found that in the claimant's particular circumstances the school officials were acting in loco parentis ("in the place of a parent") for her and the school had taken her on as a charge, therefore she qualified as a "resident" under the Agreement and the harms she suffered were compensable through the IAP, with the result that her original damages award was restored.

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