Canada to pay $31 billion to compensate Indigenous families
The families suffered from its discriminatory child welfare system that removed children from families and caregivers and enrolled them into residential schools.
Canada has announced its biggest settlement to date: A $31.5 billion agreement to reform its discriminatory child welfare system and compensate Indigenous families who had their families broken up.
$20 billion will be allocated for First Nations children removed from family care and enrolled into state residential schools to assimilate them.
The child and family services system will also be reformed, reserving funds to attain the goal within 5 years.
Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Indigenous Services said "No compensation amount can make up for the trauma people have experienced...but these Agreements-in-Principle acknowledge to survivors and their families the harm and pain caused by the discrimination in funding and services."
The agreement, which came about as a result of litigation filed by First Nations families against the Canadian government, admits that "discriminatory underfunding" of child and family services in indigenous areas has caused hardship for people concerned.
According to Census Canada in 2016, although accounting for fewer than 8 percent of children under the age of 14, Indigenous children account for more than half of those in foster care in Canada.
At least 150,000 Indigenous children have been removed from their homes and placed in one of 139 residential schools during the last three decades.
Thousands perished, largely as a result of hunger, sickness, or neglect, in what a truth and reconciliation commission dubbed "cultural genocide" in a 2015 report.
Many more were mistreated physically or sexually. Following the discovery of nearly 1,200 unmarked graves at these institutions, Canada is beginning to cope with the national tragedy.
According to attorneys in two lawsuits, the number of compensations, as well as how and when, will be established later in collaboration with specialists and the country's biggest Indigenous group, the Assembly of First Nations.
Attorney Robert Kugler said the settlement is "historic" and hopefully represents a turning point, adding that the amount "underscores the severity of the harm suffered, and will provide financial support to enable victims to better their lives going forward."
The Canadian government has repeatedly challenged orders to pay Indigenous families for systems that it conceded were discriminatory, including an appeal filed last year to reverse a landmark ruling granting billions to indigenous children.
Canada has stated that it feels the payments are necessary but would prefer to work out the details in negotiations.
The agreements in principle reached on Tuesday are anticipated to be formalized in the following months.