Finally! Justice is served! The Canadian government recently agreed to pay over $2 billion to Indian residential school survivors to compensate for a lawsuit. The lawsuit aims to settle abuse experienced by students of Indian residential schools.
For a little historical background, the lawsuit was filed in 2012 by 325 First Nations that asked for compensation for the mental, physical and sexual abuse suffered by Indigenous children during the residential school period in Canada.
Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, more than 130 residential schools were operational in Canada. Throughout this period, over 150,000 First Nations children were forcefully sent to boarding schools and cut off from their homes and family as part of a government scheme to integrate them into Canadian society. Many of these children were sexually abused, raped, and beaten, and thousands are believed to have suffered fatal consequences due to malnutrition and disease. Many residential school survivors have testified regarding children who died at schools, where they were housed in poorly-built structures with poor heating and unsanitary conditions.
During recent years, we have seen increasing evidence of malpractice as numerous Indigenous communities stood up for their rights. These discoveries have reignited a much-needed debate about the corrupt system.
According to Shane Gottfriedson, former Chief and Representative Plaintiff of Tk’emlúpsteSecwépemc:
“The residential school system decimated our languages, damaged our cultures, and left a legacy of social harms,”
He further explained how the effects of the trauma are not just limited to his generation, but to many generations to come. During the Assembly of First Nations, Gottfriedsonsaid that the fight with the government to settle the rights of Canadian Native Americans has been ongoing. With the current lawsuit, we can hope that things will get better for the Indigenous people in Canada and a new era of fair treatment will begin.
We also agree with Garry Feschuk’s statement, one of the litigants and ex-chief of the shíshálh. He believes Canada should take responsibility for inflicting the harm and help reverse the damage. He sees this as a first good step towards healing what has been harmed.
The Canadian federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, spoke on behalf of the government and said that “all survivors should receive the compensation and justice that they deserve.” The details for distributing the funds will be decided later on by the Canadian federal court in late February.
The settlement was announced on Saturday and urged Canada to pay a total of US$2.1 billion to a non-profit organization that has no government dependence. The trust will use the money to support the education, wellness, healing, language, and culture of Indigenous people over 20 years.
This case of Indian residential school survivors is a classic example of why we need partnership and collaborative dialogue in solving historic disputes that lie outside of the court system. Thanks to the efforts of many, a settlement has been established that will support the healing of many upcoming Native generations. We hope to see the same level of zeal and dedication for Native American rights in the future.
The settlement is a great first step. Money helps but doesn't fix all the issues.
Feature Image from Wikimedia Commons