On March 12, 2021, the Government of Canada announced a historic settlement agreement with survivors of the Federal Indian Day School system. The system operated from the 1920s to the 1990s, and in total, an estimated 200,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend these schools, which were often run by churches.
The agreement will provide compensation ranging from $10,000 to $250,000 to survivors, depending on the severity of the abuse and the length of their attendance at the schools. In addition, the government will provide funding for healing and commemoration initiatives, as well as for a confidential resolution process for survivors who do not wish to go through the courts.
The settlement agreement comes after years of advocacy by survivors and their families, who have been calling for recognition, justice, and compensation for the harms done to them in the schools. Many survivors reported experiencing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as having their language, culture, and identity suppressed.
The agreement is a step towards reconciliation and healing, but it is also a reminder of the ongoing legacy of colonialism and the need for systemic change. The Federal Indian Day School system was part of a larger effort by the Canadian government to assimilate Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian society, and it reflects a history of cultural genocide and forced assimilation.
As Canadians, it is important to confront and acknowledge this history, and to support Indigenous-led efforts towards healing, justice, and self-determination. This includes listening to survivors and their families, educating ourselves about the impacts of colonialism, and advocating for systemic change that respects Indigenous rights and sovereignty.
The Federal Indian Day School settlement agreement is a significant milestone in this journey, but it is only one step towards a more just and equitable future for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Let us continue to work towards reconciliation and justice, and to honour the resilience and strength of Indigenous communities.