Canada has reached a proposed solution with a group of native survivors from the now-closed housing schools for the abuse they have suffered, a federal minister said Wednesday, ending a 1
The settlement comes as the government struggles to deal with a national uprising after the remains of 215 native children were discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The government has been under pressure to legally stop against indigenous peoples’ claims for compensation and recognition in court after the discovery.
Under the latest agreement, the government will provide C $ 10,000 ($ 8259.00) to each survivor involved in the class action lawsuit, creating an initially led non-profit organization of C $ 50 million to support well-being and cultural learning.
The settlement does not include an explicit admission of misconduct by the government. Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the plaintiffs had hoped for an official apology and “while this is not part of a settlement agreement, we will listen to their concerns as we work together on this request.”
The estimated 12,000 to 20,000 survivors of the trial attended residential schools during the day and went home at night. Because of this, they were not included in an earlier solution for survivors in school.
Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 native children from their parents and brought them to institutions for the stated purpose of assimilation. They were malnourished, beaten and sexually abused in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called cultural genocide in its 2015 milestone report.
The proposal is open for comments from the plaintiffs until August 2021 and will be presented along with the comments to the court in September for approval.
Bennett told reporters at a Wednesday conference that the government will continue to work with survivors and their families and others to address the remaining childhood demands.
“Together we will move forward on the path to reconciliation,” she said.
CANADA IS A “REPEAT LEADER”
Several plaintiffs spoke at the conference, describing the pain the housing schools and the years-long lawsuit brought them.
“This has been a really long process, 14 years in which we returned to court and recovered trauma,” said Charlotte Gilbert, a representative of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit.
A separate class case, still pending, addresses the cultural damage of residential schools and involves 105 native bands.
“No amount of compensation can change the legacy of residential schools,” said Diena Jules, a survivor of the schools. “Nothing can recreate us to be whole.”
The government remains involved in several ongoing lawsuits involving indigenous peoples in Canada. A Canadian human rights court case involving discrimination through systemic underfunding of child and family services against indigenous children – resulting in a disproportionate number of native children in nursing homes – is due to hear next week.
The Canadian government has admitted that its funding system for children and family services “was broken and needed immediate and comprehensive reform.” However, in its most recent submission, it argued that the court was the wrong place for this dispute and that individual compensation was not appropriate in this case.
“It’s a really dangerous argument,” said Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxsan Nation and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who filed a lawsuit.
Canada is “a repeat offender” when it comes to revoking indigenous children’s rights, she said. “It needs a heavy hand of deterrence.”
($ 1 = 1.2108 Canadian dollars)
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