Canada has lost a legal battle with indigenous children over the non-payment of compensation for their stay in residential schools. The Canadian government has been ordered to compensate victims for lost language, culture and other damages resulting from the country’s assimilation policies. Canada will now have to pay survivors at least $10,000 per person as well as provide funds for healing programs and scholarships. This marks a major victory for those who were abused by the system that was set up to assimilate them into white society. Survivors have been fighting for a decade to receive compensation. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s refusal to support the agreement led one judge to call his behavior disgraceful. Canada was then taken to court by survivors who said that their rights were being violated. In 2012, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Beverley McLachlin, stated that Canada was shirking its responsibility for the treatment of survivors.
Canada’s assimilation policy has been called cultural genocide by the UN. The origins of the schools can be traced back to 1620, although they became more common in the 19th century as part of an effort to promote white society amongst indigenous populations. By 1920 there were over 130 residential institutions where children would be forcibly removed from their
Over 150,000 native children were forcibly taken from their homes between 1904 and 1996. The assimilation policies went as far as forbidding them to speak their own language or even have Indian friends. They were forced to wear European-style outfits and their hair was cut. They were beaten for speaking their own language, as well as suffered sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be caring for them. The system led to a rise in suicides amongst those sent there, as well as mental health issues and addiction problems.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put money towards indigenous issues and has called the assimilation policies a dark and shameful part of Canada’s history. Under Trudeau, Canada set up a truth and reconciliation commission which aims to bring together those who were torn apart by the system as well as provide education on Canada’s historical relations with its first inhabitants. A new national holiday is also being considered to mark the contributions indigenous peoples have made. Trudeau’s own father, a former prime minister himself ,was widely criticized for doing too little about the issue during his time in office.
Currently it is estimated that there are less than 1 million indigenous people left in Canada from a population of close to 2 million at the start of the 20th century.
Canada has been ordered to pay $15 billion for their mistreatment of indigenous children in residential schools. The compensation will be distributed among those who suffered sexual and physical abuse as well as other forms of mistreatment at the hands of those who should have been caring for them. In addition to the financial compensation, healing programs will be set up in order to provide survivors with the support they need. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the assimilation policies a dark and shameful part of Canada’s history.