The settlement was revealed at an event on Saturday by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, who noted that it would not “erase or make up for the past,” but that it may “address the collective pain created by Canada’s past.”
In 2012, 325 First Nations filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the mistreatment Indigenous Canadians endured at government boarding schools as well as the deterioration of their culture and language.
The court still needs to approve the new agreement. The government claims that the funds will be given to a trust for non-profits to assist “healing, wellness, education, heritage, language and commemoration activities” for Indigenous Canadians over the course of 20 years.
Over 150,000 natives or First Nations children were forced to attend 139 residential schools across Canada from the late 1800s to the 1990s, spending months or years isolated from their families. The program aimed to isolate the Indigenous children from the influence of their homes and culture and assimilate them into Canadian society by Christianizing them. But many of them were subjected to abuse, rape, and malnutrition.
Over the past year and a half, more than 1,300 child graves have been found near government-run compulsory boarding schools in Canada where Indigenous children were forcibly assimilated. The discoveries have sent shockwaves through the country and raised national awareness of the dark past of how Indigenous people were treated.
In 2015, the government-sponsored Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating the matter described the Church’s atrocities against First Nations, Inuit and Metis natives as “cultural genocide.”
Over 4,100 children who died due to disease or in accidents at schools have been identified to date. They were often buried in unmarked graves, without identification or notice to their parents.