Indian Day School advocate Garry McLean passes away

February 19, 2019

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

TREATY ONE TERRITORY, MB. _ It is with sadness and shock the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has learned of the passing of Garry McLean.

Mr. McLean launched a $15 billion class action lawsuit against the Government of Canada in 2009 after day schoolers had been left out of the Indian Residential School survivor settlement. He was the lead plaintiff. The federal government in a joint announcement with Mr. McLean and other interested parties announced in December 2018, a tentative deal had been reached with the agreement still yet to be ratified.

“If it were not for Garry McLean, along with his colleagues at Spirit Wind, and their incredible efforts, I don’t know if this class action lawsuit would be where it is today; for that our citizens should be grateful for his leadership,” said Glenn Hudson, Acting Grand Chief for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Mr. McLean was born and raised in Lake Manitoba First Nation. He remained fluent in the Saulteaux Ojibway language throughout his life. He was just a small boy of six or seven years old when he began attending the Dog Creek Day School on his First Nation. Mr. McLean has said the school bell rang at 9 a.m. and at 9:05 a.m. he was getting the strap because he did not know how to say ‘good morning’ in English.

He was devoted to the interests and well-being of First Nations people. Mr. McLean worked as an elected councillor for several terms and as general manager for his First Nation, along with a variety of positions in various First Nation organizations. He was also a political advisor for three Grand Chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. A man of many talents, Mr. McLean also co-published the Indigenous newspaper Weetamah during his time.

Mr. McLean, affectionately known as Sonny Boy, was a strong advocate for Treaty rights and the importance of recognizing those rights between First Nations and non-First Nation entities and people. He pushed the Clean Environment Commission and Manitoba Hydro to be cognizant of Treaty rights and through his work he sought to undertake disseminating the history of First Nations in Manitoba and how Treaty rights need to be upheld.

“He will be sorely missed,” said Acting Grand Chief Hudson.