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Canada achieves $15 billion settlement with Indigenous peoples

OTTAWA — Canada said Tuesday it has reached a tentative agreement with advocates and Indigenous communities to pay about $15 billion in compensation for Indigenous children placed in the welfare system. child rights that a quasi-judicial body has ruled violates human rights.

This development implies a nearly 16-year legal battle between Indigenous children’s advocates and the Canadian government. It represents one of the largest financial awards a developed country says it will pay to members of its indigenous community.

The settlement marks another step by the country’s Liberal government to accelerate Indigenous reconciliation efforts following the discovery last year of more than 1,000 unmarked graves close to the government-funded, church-run residential schools that indigenous children attend.

Canadian officials say some details still need to be finalized, a process the country anticipates will happen in the coming months and the deal requires court approval.

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Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief for the Council of First Nations, speaking Tuesday in Ottawa, said the settlement ‘has been going on for a long time.’


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PATRICK DOYLE / REUTERS

In 2016, the Canadian Court of Human Rights ruled that the federal government discriminated against Indigenous children and their families because they spent less on child welfare services for Indigenous communities. compared with non-indigenous children. The plaintiffs argued that the low financial provision led officials to remove Indigenous children from their homes and place them in state care, the plaintiffs argued. Three years later, the court ordered the government to pay C$40,000, or about $31,000, to Indigenous children unnecessarily evicted for their child and family welfare services. not enough.

Courts said government policies may lead to unnecessary out-of-home care 54,000 children since 2006 and cause “injury and harm of the highest degree” and represent “violation of [children’s] basic human rights. ”

Advocates for Canadian Indigenous Children first filed a legal complaint against the federal-government policy in 2007. Attorneys for the Canadian government have appealed the court’s decision, seeking to canceled it, before formal negotiations began late last year.

Under the agreement, Canada agreed to pay C$20 billion for Indigenous children displaced from their homes over a period of more than three decades beginning in April 1991. The children’s parents and carers also eligible for compensation. Canada has also agreed to spend C$20 billion over the next five years to overhaul the child welfare system for Indigenous families.

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Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services, noted on Tuesday the ‘tremendous harm and grief’ suffered by Indigenous families.


Photo:

David Kawai / Bloomberg News

Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, said: “This is truly a day of reflection, acknowledging the immense harm and grief that so many families continue to live together on a daily basis. “It is an admission of a country knowingly financing the communities and care of First Nations, resulting in double and ongoing losses.”

“The settlement has been going on for a long time,” said Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief for the Council of First Nations, which represents Canada’s indigenous communities. “We have had to work very hard for today to address the grave wrongs against the children of First Fatherland, which are fueled by an inherently prejudiced system.”

David Sterns, a Canadian attorney representing clients in the class action lawsuit covered by the settlement, said the $20 billion Canadian settlement represents one of the largest settlements in Canadian legal history.

The amount Canada has agreed to pay exceeds a wide margin compared with some similar recent settlements by the US and Australian governments. Obama Administration completed in 2012 a payment of $3.4 billion to settle disputes with Native Americans in the Western states about the government’s mismanagement of money and allocating land on their behalf.

In August, the Australian government set aside around $272 million in compensation for Indigenous Australians who were forced out of their families as children.

In a letter to Hajdu and Marc Miller, Canada’s Minister for Indigenous Relations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government must speed up reconciliation with indigenous peoples after the discovery of more than 1,000 graves unmarked near schools for Indigenous children. . For more than a century, Canadian authorities removed Indigenous children from their families, sometimes by force, and placed them in state-run boarding schools, where many were abused, as noted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in a 2015 report. Canada’s last residential school ceased operations in the 1990s.

Canada has awarded more than C$3 billion in damages to settle approximately 31,000 claims related to the sexual and physical abuse of student survivors and other misconduct. cause psychological harm.

“We know that reconciliation cannot come without facts and our government will continue to invest in that truth,” Trudeau said in his letters.

Write letter for Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com and Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/canada-reaches-15-billion-settlement-with-indigenous-peoples-11641326167 Canada achieves $15 billion settlement with Indigenous peoples

Ian Walker

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