EDITORIAL: Feds should admit defeat

by Cody Punter- August 9, 2018

They say that good things come to those who wait. But the world of the Canadian justice system can take a long time to deliver.

For the past six years, Baker Lake’s Simeon Mikkungwak has been fighting the Canadian government to compensate students for being sent to Kivalliq Hall.

Kivalliq News

The facility was run as a boarding home for students attending high school in Rankin Inlet from other communities between 1985 and 1995.

When Canada agreed to pay out compensation to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement as part of a class action suit in 2006, Mikkungwak, who is a former Kivalliq Hall student, was left wondering why he and other students who attended were not included under the agreement.

He asked the federal government about the situation but they held firm. So he decided to take them to court with Nunavut Tungavik Inc. on behalf of other students.

The Kivalliq Hall court case was originally settled in Mikkungwak’s favour, but rather than accepting the ruling as it should have, the federal government doubled down and tried to use legal technicalities to try and reverse the decision.

This week Mikkungwak and other former students, scored a big victory after the Nunavut Court of Appeal upheld the previous decision, which ruled that the government was indeed responsible for running Kivalliq Hall. As such, it is on the hook for compensating the former residential school students

The moment should have been a cause for celebration. But instead we are once again found waiting for good things to happen.

That’s because the federal government can still choose to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Kivalliq News has tried to find out what the feds plan to do but so far they have not disclosed their plans. Mikkungwak knows better than to take that silence for weakness: after the last decision was handed down the government filed an appeal just a few days before the deadline.

With 90 days to appeal the recent decision, it could be an excruciating three months for those who have twice been told by the courts that they are owed compensation.

The decision to appeal the original Kivalliq Hall decision was a sign of bad faith on the government’s part. The fact that the judge in that case found that the legal team for the feds had a poor understanding of the relationship between the federal government and the territories before devolution seem to indicate that they are fighting the case because they can, not because of some deeply held conviction.

And that’s without taking into account how many taxpayer dollars have been wasted on an issue that seems cut and dry.

Mikkungwak, now the MLA for Baker Lake, said the case is less about money and more about ensuring that Inuit are viewed equally under the law.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected on a platform of improving the federal government’s relations with Canada’s Inuit, First Nations and Metis.

However, the government’s track record shows that it is more than happy to say one thing while doing another. If Trudeau’s Liberals want to try and save face, they should do the right thing and put an end to the waiting game.

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