Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Farrow, Trevor C. W., and Lesley A. Jacobs. The Justice Crisis : the Cost and Value of Accessing Law. UBC Press, 2020.


That Indigenous people in Canada were victimized for well over a century by the residential schools system for Aboriginal children is not in question. The system, which amounted to an “assault on child and culture,” was designed to “kill the Indian in the child.” Whether the legal system – purporting to provide some form of compensation in the context of claims by survivors and their families – has provided justice is a much more open question. The costs – financial, social, health, time, and so on – associated with pursuing the resolution of residential schools claims through the justice system have been enormous. These costs feed skepticism about the commitment of the justice system to the process of truth and create immense barriers to progress towards reconciliation.

The point of this chapter, part of the body of Costs of Justice research, is primarily to call out some of the problematic steps in the various residential schools claims processes that have resulted in and allowed for those costs, and to situate those processes and costs in current ongoing truth and reconciliation efforts in Canada. In addition to the residential schools litigation, I will briefly mention several other problematic cases and contexts to make the point that, when thinking about access to justice, the residential schools litigation is not an isolated incident but rather part of a continuum that many see as costly, unequal, and alienating justice in Canada.