The Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) is getting ready to put on a conference in Saskatoon to help support survivors of the former Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school.

The Survivors Gathering is set to go from March 24 to 26 in Saskatoon at TCU Place. MN-S Vice President Michelle LeClair told MBC Radio News the conference will have a wide focus and talk about a number of different issues.

“We’ll have survivors circles, we’ll have legal updates, conference breakout sessions on the loss of language and culture as a result of residential schools,” she said.

Another issue which LeClair expects to come up is the possibility of a search of the former school grounds for possible unmarked graves.

In January it was announced that survivors of the former boarding school in Île-à-la-Crosse were filing a new legal action against the federal and provincial governments with support from the MN-S along with the Île-à-la-Crosse Survivors Committee. MN-S Vice President LeClair said the conference will allow for survivors to be provided with an update on where the legal process is currently.

According to LeClair, one of the first orders of business is for lawyers representing survivors in the new action to get a previously filed action related to the school stopped.

“The lawyers are making an application to the Court of Kings Bench for a stay on the previous action, so it’s in its beginning stages, but we’re really hopeful that things are going to move along fairly quickly,” she said.

The newest legal action has been officially filed in court and LeClair added they are expecting to soon see legal statements of defense filed.

When it comes to getting the former boarding school in Île-à-la-Crosse formally recognized as a residential school, LeClair as well pointed to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by boarding school survivors and the federal government in 2019. In the MOU the federal government committed to working with survivors to find a way forward. LeClair said this avenue is another one which is being looked at to help former students of the school.

“We’re trying to work with the federal government and hopefully the provincial government at some point to sort of resolve this outside of court,” she said.

Another portion of the upcoming conference will be helping survivors who wish to tell their stories do so. LeClair said it has been arranged for a film crew to be hand at the conference. She added this decision was made after some survivors talked about feeling they had not been heard when it came to their experiences.

“If they choose to, we’re going to have a camera crew in a private room where they can tell their story one on one with, you know of coarse with mental health supports,” she said.

(TOP PHOTO: Survivors and dignitaries gather to speak on a new lawsuit against both the federal and provincial governments on the Île-à-la-Crosse Boarding School. Photo by Joel Willick.)