Canada to pay over $2 billion in compensation for Indigenous schools

Canada to pay over $2 billion in compensation for Indigenous schools

OTTAWA: Canada will pay more than $2 billion in compensation for hundreds of Indigenous communities for nearly a century of abuse suffered by children in residential schools.

A class action lawsuit brought by 325 Indigenous groups resulted in a settlement of C $2.8 billion US $2.1 billion, which will be placed in a not-for-profit trust that is independent of the government.

According to a press release, it will be used to revitalise Indigenous education, culture, and language to support survivors in healing and reconnecting with their heritage.

It took Canada far too long to own up to its history, own up to the genocide it committed and recognise the collective harm caused to our nations by residential schools, said Garry Feschuk, an indigenous leader who is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

It is time that Canada not only recognizes the harm but helps to do it by walking with us. He said that this settlement is a good first step.

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada's government sent about 150,000 children into 139 residential schools, mostly run by the Catholic Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.

Many were physically and sexually abused, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former schools has dragged the legacy of those institutions back into the spotlight as Canada reckons with its dark colonial past.

More than 1,300 graves have been identified this month, the most recent of which was earlier this month.

In Lebret, Saskatchewan, ground-penetrating radar has uncovered nearly 2,000 areas of interest that need to be thoroughly investigated, the Star Blanket Cree community said.

A fragment of a child's jawbone dating to some 125 years ago has been identified on the grounds of a former residential school in the western Canadian community.

On the advice of former students, the search areas were selected near the Catholic-run residential school, which was open until 1998.

The residential school system decimated our languages, damaged our cultures, and left a legacy of social harms. Shane Gottfriedson, another Indigenous leader and plaintiff, said it will take many generations for us to heal.

In the press release, Marc Miller, the federal minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, said all survivors deserve justice and the compensation they deserve.

The federal court will decide on February 27 the exact terms for disbursing the US $2.8 billion.

A national commission of inquiry in 2015 called the residential school system a cultural genocide Last year, Pope Francis visited Canada on a penitential trip to apologize for the evil perpetrated in the schools - a gesture seen by many survivors as overwhelming, but only the beginning of a process of healing and reconciliation.