The Canadian government will set aside $40 billion — more than $30 billion in U.S. currency — to compensate Indigenous people who faced abuses as children in the country’s residential schools, officials announced Monday. The funds will also be used to reform the country’s troubled child welfare system.
The pledge comes amid ongoing negotiations between Canadian authorities and First Nations groups over how to make amends for the historical mistreatment of Indigenous children.
“We have been unequivocal throughout these historic negotiations: we will compensate those harmed by the federal government’s discriminatory funding practices and we will lay the foundation for an equitable and better future for First Nations children, their families and communities,” Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu and Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said in a joint statement.
From 1831 to 1998, the government separated some 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and sent them to residential schools where they routinely faced physical and sexual abuse. At least 6,000 students died, though officials say that number could be higher.
The money will be used to settle a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order and two class action lawsuits as well as pay for longer-term improvements to the Indigenous child welfare system, the CBC reported.
“While the Government of Canada’s promise to put $40 billion towards ending ongoing discrimination and compensating the children and families who were hurt is an important step, there are more legal steps to take before victims get the compensation they are owed and First Nations children get the services they deserve,” Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, said in a statement.
Blackstock noted that many Indigenous children and young adults in Canada still face challenges in attaining basic public services.
Negotiations are continuing, but both sides have agreed to a deadline of Dec. 31, according to the CBC.
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.