The Prime Minister Justin Trudea-led Canadian government has agreed to pay C$2.8bn ($2.09bn; £1.68bn) to settle a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for the loss of language and culture caused by its residential school system.
According to reports, government-funded compulsory boarding schools were part of a policy meant to assimilate children and destroy indigenous cultures and languages.
NCNC learnt that the money will be paid to a non-profit trust independent of the government. However, the settlement must still be finalized and approved by a court.
It could be recalled that the lawsuit was brought by 325 First Nations in 2012, and sought reparations for the abuse indigenous Canadians faced at the government boarding schools.
Archives have it that some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools from the 19th Century into the 1970s. Reports had it that many then suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Court records have it that survivors testified about children who died at the schools, where students were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated, and unsanitary facilities.
Remarkably, Indigenous communities have in recent years found evidence of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools. These discoveries have reignited debate about the system.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller who announced the settlement at a recent event, said it would not “erase or make up for the past” but “what it can do is address the collective harm caused by Canada’s past”.
Speaking, former chief of the Tk’emlups Nation and British Columbia regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, Shane Gottfriedson said during the event that it had “always been a fight with government” to settle Native Canadian human rights and land claims.
“This is the beginning of a new era in Canada for our people,” he said.
According to the government, the settlement will be placed in a not-for-profit trust to support “healing, wellness, education, heritage, language and commemoration activities” for indigenous Canadians over the course of 20 years.
Reports have it that more than 130 residential schools were operated in Canada between 1874 and 1996.
It could be recalled that the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, released in 2015, concluded Canada’s residential school system amounted to “cultural genocide”.
Reports said at least 3,200 children died while attending a residential school, though advocates have said this number is likely much higher.
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