Canada to pay indigenous abuse survivors after class suit

The $2-billion settlement hopes to heal the sufferings of abused children

OTTAWA, Canada (AFP) — Canada’s government will pay hundreds of indigenous communities more than $2 billion in compensation for nearly a century of abuse suffered by children in residential schools.

The Can$2.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) settlement, the result of a class action lawsuit by 325 indigenous groups, will be placed in a not-for-profit trust independent of the government, Ottawa has announced.

It will be used to “revitalize indigenous education, culture, and language — to support survivors in healing and reconnecting with their heritage,” according to a government press release.

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

“It is time that Canada not only recognize this harm, but help undo it by walking with us. This settlement is a good first step,” he said in the statement released Saturday.

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 the former schools over the past two years 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, the most recent earlier this month.

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