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Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett (centre) announces Ottawa has reached an agreement-in-principle on a settlement of the Indian Day Schools class-action lawsuit. To her right is Garry McLean, the lead plaintiff. Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart is at left. (Jorge Barrera/CBC) The federal government announced Thursday it had reached a deal to settle a class action lawsuit from former students of Indian Day Schools.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said during a news conference on Parliament Hill that Ottawa had reached an agreement-in-principle with Garry McLean, the lead plaintiff in the case on behalf of students who suffered cultural harm and physical and sexual abuse while attending the schools.

About 200,000 Indigenous children attended federally operated Indian Day Schools beginning in the 1920s. Indian Day Schools were operated separately from Indian Residential Schools and were not included in the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The agreement-in-principle includes individual compensation, $200 million for healing, wellness, language, culture and commemoration, and funding for legal fees.

The minister said the amount set for compensation would be released early next year.

Bennett said the agreement "marks an important milestone for thousands of former Indian Day School students by bringing us one step closer to achieving lasting and meaningful resolution of this litigation by the recognition of Canada for the harm created by this dark and tragic chapter in Canadian history."

Garry McLean, who attended Dog Creek Indian Day School in Lake Manitoba First Nation, said he was overwhelmed with emotion by the announcement of the deal, which was reached on Nov. 30.

"Today, I’m truly excited," said McLean. "I’m really happy."

McLean said it has also been a long road for him to be able to forgive what happened to him at the day school.

"I had to forgive the person that hurt me," he said. "[I had] to forgive my parents for not standing up for me that day…. Forgiveness to me has to be taken one step at a time."

The class action lawsuit was originally filed in 2009 as a $15 billion claim and certified by the Federal Court on June 21, 2018.

Bennett said there are still some steps left before the agreement is finalized, including the holding a fairness hearing before a judge to approve a final deal.

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