Jan. 21 (UPI) — The Canadian government on Saturday agreed to pay $2.1 billion to settle a lawsuit seeking reparations for forcing thousands of Indigenous Canadians to attend residential schools.
The lawsuit, first brought by 325 First Nations in 2012, argued that the government schools led to a loss of language and culture in an effort to assimilate young Indigenous Canadians.
A court must give final approval to the settlement terms before it will be paid to a non-profit trust set up independently of the government, the BBC reported.
If approved, it will be the fifth major reparation payment since 2006, The New York Times reported. Including Saturday’s agreement, the government has paid about $7.5 billion.
Plaintiffs have accused the government-funded schools of physically, sexually and emotionally abusing Indigenous children and forcibly removing them from their families starting in the 19th century and lasting into the 1970s. Survivors said the schools were also run down, poorly heated and unsanitary.
Shane Gottfriedson, former chief of the Tk’emlups Nation and British Columbia regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, said Saturday it was a fight to settle the allegations with the government.
“This is the beginning of a new era in Canada for our people,” he said at an event announcing the agreement.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the deal didn’t “erase or make up for the past.”
“What it can do is address the collective harm caused by Canada’s past.”