Canadian Government Announces $800 Million In Reparations
Thousands of First Nations children placed in non-Indigenous care will be compensated.
On October 6, after several years in court, Crown-Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the Ottawa Canadian government has reached an agreement with survivors of the Sixties Scoop, the CBC reports.
During the Sixties Scoop, Native American children were forcibly taken from their parents and given to white families.
In the 1880s, the Canadian government and Canadian churches decided that the country's Native peoples needed to be assimilated. A residential school system was created; Native American children were sent to these schools and forbidden to speak their native languages, were made to dress in Western attire and were given a Western education.
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These schools were later found to be rife with physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
According to the University of British Columbia's Indigenous Foundations, "the government's and the churches’ intent was to eradicate all aspects of Aboriginal culture in these young people and interrupt its transmission from one generation to the next."
In the 1950s, the residential school system was shut down for the most part; however, welfare workers in Native American communities were given broad powers to remove Native American children from their parents if they felt the children would be better taken care of by other families.
The welfare workers exercised these powers often; around 20,000 children were taken away in all. This is now known as the Sixties Scoop.
The Aboriginal Committee of the Family and Children’s Services Legislation Review Panel found that although some children were given to "caring, well-intentioned individuals," others experienced "slave labor and physical, emotional and sexual abuse."
The report continued, "Even the best of these homes are not healthy places for our children. Anglo-Canadian foster parents are not culturally equipped to create an environment in which a positive Aboriginal self-image can develop. In many cases, our children are taught to demean those things about themselves that are Aboriginal."
In order to try to make amends, the Canadian government will pay the children taken away during the Scoop approximately $800 million in reparations.
"They have lived their lives not being able to be proud Indigenous people," Bennett said. "They have lived their lives not having secure personal cultural identity. That was robbed away. Someone thought that a non-Indigenous family somewhere else in the world was going to do a better job."
While the final agreement hasn't been reached, the government's plan is a stepping stone to a concrete contract. Bennett said the government has set aside $750 million for individual compensation. If fewer than 20,000 people come forward to claim the money, each claimant will receive a maximum of $50,000. If more than 20,000 people come forward, each claimant will receive $25,000.
"No amount of money can compensate for the harm that was suffered, but it's a step in the right direction," Jeffery Wilson, a lawyer for some of the survivors said. "It's partly symbolic."
The final $50 million of the $800 million settlement has been allocated for a foundation dedicated to reconciliation initiatives.
53-year-old Marcia Brown Marte, who was taken away from her parents as a child and was the lead plaintiff in the 8-year class action suit, said while this is a start, there's still more work to do.
"There is great hope within myself that Indigenous children in this country … will never again be taken from their culture," she said. "The time of stealing children and placing them into something that is not their lifestyle, their culture, gone from their language, those days are coming to a close."