Posted on January 24, 2023

Canada Settles $2 Billion Suit Over ‘Cultural Genocide’ at Residential Schools

Ian Austen, New York Times, January 21, 2023

Canada said on Saturday that it had agreed to pay 2.8 billion Canadian dollars, about $2 billion, to settle the latest in a series of lawsuits seeking reparations for the harm done to Indigenous people through a system of mandatory residential schools that a national commission called “cultural genocide.”

The new settlement, which must still be approved by a court, resolves a class action brought in 2012 by 325 First Nations that sought compensation for the erosion of their cultures and languages.

Thousands of Indigenous students educated at about 130 residential schools from the 19th century through the 1990s were forbidden, sometimes through coercive violence, from speaking their ancestral languages and practicing their traditions.


In 2021, Canadians were shocked by evidence of unmarked graves containing the remains of 215 former students on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Evidence of the graves was discovered using ground penetrating radar. Subsequent searches at other onetime schools have found similar possible burial sites. Thousands of students are believed to have died at the schools from disease, malnutrition, neglect, accidents, fires and violence.

If the new agreement is approved, it will be the fifth major legal settlement related to the schools since a 2006 agreement provided compensation to former students and established a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission examined the educational system, heard testimony from former students and issued a long list of recommendations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to fully implement. With the latest agreement, the government will have provided a total of about 10 billion Canadian dollars in restitution.


Under the agreement, the government will place the settlement into a trust fund that Indigenous communities can use for educational, cultural and language programs. {snip}