Canada will pay hundreds of indigenous communities more than $2 billion in damages for nearly a century of abuse of children in residential schools, its government said.
The Can$2.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) settlement, which resulted from a lawsuit filed by 325 indigenous groups, will be placed in a non-profit non-government trust.
It will be used to “revitalize Indigenous education, culture and language –– to support survivors in healing and reconnecting with their heritage,” according to a news release.
“It’s taken too long for Canada to own up to its history, own up to its genocide and acknowledge the collective damage that residential schools have done to our country,” said Garry Feschuk, an indigenous leader who is one of the plaintiffs. . the clothes.
“It is time that Canada not only acknowledges this danger, but helps to eliminate it by walking with us. This settlement is a good first step,” he said in a statement. a statement issued on Saturday.
From the late 1800s to the 1990s, the Canadian government sent about 150,000 children to 139 residential schools, mostly run by the Catholic Church, where they were separated from their families and their 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 on the site of former schools in the past two years has led to the legacy of these institutions coming back into the light of day. Canada’s dark colonial past.
More than 1,300 graves have been identified, most recently this month.
In Lebret, Saskatchewan, ground-penetrating radar has identified “2,000 areas of interest” that need to be thoroughly investigated, the Star Blanket Cree community said.
A fragment of a child’s jaw from nearly 125 years ago has been found in the grounds of a former residential school in a western Canadian community.
The research areas were chosen near the Catholic residential school – which has been open since 1998 – on the advice of former students.
“The residential education system has destroyed our language, completely destroyed our culture, and left a legacy of social destruction. The effects are intergenerational. It will take generations for us to recover,” said Shane Gottfriedson, other indigenous leaders and preachers.
“We believe that all survivors deserve justice and compensation,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said in a press release.
A clear deadline for the release of $ 2.8 billion will be determined by the federal court on February 27.
A national commission of inquiry in 2015 called the residential school system a “cultural genocide”.
Last year, Pope Francis visited Canada on a penance tour to apologize for the “evil” committed at the school — a move survivors saw as overwhelming, but a start. only the process of healing and reconciliation.