Canada proposes to settle indigenous lawsuit after discovery of children’s remains

REUTERS  | Anna Mehler Paperny and Moira Warburton

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada has reached a proposed settlement with a group of indigenous survivors of the now-defunct residential schools for the abuse they suffered, a federal minister said on Wednesday, ending a 14-year fight for justice.

The settlement comes as the government is scrambling to deal with a national outcry after the remains of 215 indigenous children were discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The government has been under pressure to stop legally opposing indigenous people’s requests for compensation and acknowledgement in court following the discovery.

Under the latest agreement, the government will provide C$10,000 ($8,259.00) to each survivor involved in the class action lawsuit and create a C$50 million indigenous-led nonprofit to support wellbeing and cultural learning.

The settlement does not include an explicit admission of wrongdoing by the government. Crown-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 be listening to their concerns, as we work together on this request.”

The estimated 12,000 to 20,000 survivors in the lawsuit attended residential schools during the day and went home at night. Because of this, they were not included in a previous settlement for residential school survivors.

Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 indigenous children from their parents, bringing them to institutions with the stated purpose of assimilation. They were malnourished, beaten and sexually abused in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called cultural genocide in its landmark 2015 report.

The proposal is open for comments from 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 news conference that the government will continue to work with survivors and their families and others to resolve remaining childhood claims.

“Together we will move forward on the path to reconciliation,” she said.

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