Canada to pay indigenous abuse survivors more than $2bn

Canada's government has announced that it will pay more than $2 billion in compensation to hundreds of Indigenous communities for nearly a century of abuse suffered by children in residential schools. 

A class-action lawsuit filed by 324 Indigenous communities resulted in the Can$2.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) settlement, which will be placed in an independent not-for-profit trust. 

It will be used to "revitalize Indigenous education, culture, and language - to assist survivors in healing and reconnecting with their heritage," according to a press release. 

"It has taken far too long for Canada to own up to its history, to own up to the genocide it committed, and to recognize the collective harm caused to our nations by residential schools," said Garry Feschuk, an Indigenous leader who is one of the suit's plaintiffs. 

"It is past time for Canada to not only acknowledge this harm, but also to help undo it by walking alongside us. "This is a good first step," he said in a statement released on Saturday. 

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, the Canadian government sent approximately 150,000 children to 139 residential schools, the majority of which were run by the Catholic church, where they were separated from their families, language, and culture. 

Many were abused physically and sexually, and thousands are believed to have died as a result of disease, malnutrition, or neglect. 

Over the last two years, the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves near the former schools has brought the legacy of those institutions back into the spotlight as Canada confronts its dark colonial past. 

More than 1,300 graves have been discovered, with the most recent discovered about 10 days ago. 

Last year, Pope Francis paid a penitential visit to Canada to apologize for the abuse, which many survivors saw as overwhelming, but only the beginning of a process of healing and reconciliation.

"We believe that all survivors are entitled to justice and compensation," said Marc Miller, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, in a press release. 

The federal court will decide the exact terms for disbursing the $2.8 billion on February 27. 

In 2015, a national commission of inquiry labeled the residential school system "cultural genocide."

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