On March 8, 2021, the federal government of Canada announced a proposed settlement agreement worth $15 billion with survivors and descendants of Indian Day Schools. The Indian Day Schools settlement agreement is expected to resolve a decades-long struggle for justice and compensate Indigenous peoples who suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse while attending mandatory residential schools.
Indian Day Schools refer to a network of institutions which were administered by the federal government and run by various churches throughout Canada. These schools were established in the early 20th century and aimed to assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society by forbidding them to speak their own language or practice their own customs and traditions.
Canadian Indigenous communities have long protested against the Indian Day Schools as they were not formally recognized as residential schools under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) of 2006. The IRSSA only addressed students who attended residential schools that were identified on a list created by the government.
It was only in 2019, when the Federal Court of Canada ordered Canada to recognize Indian Day Schools as residential schools, opening the door for compensation, and financial compensation was sought for the survivors.
As per the Indian Day Schools settlement agreement, compensation will be distributed through two components; a basic compensation payment and a payment for harms experienced.
The basic compensation payment of $10,000 is for the loss of language and culture, as well as the separation from families and communities caused by attending Indian Day Schools. The harm payment, on the other hand, which ranges from $50,000 to $200,000, is for those who suffered severe physical or sexual abuse or mistreatment while attending an Indian Day School.
The settlement agreement also includes the creation of a commemoration fund worth $200 million to honor the memory of those affected by Indian Day Schools and promote healing and reconciliation. Additionally, a $50 million fund will be established to support the implementation of various cultural and language revitilization initiatives.
Overall, the Indian Day Schools settlement agreement is seen as a landmark moment in the ongoing process of reconciling Canada`s colonial past and addressing the injustices faced by Indigenous Peoples. The proposed agreement is yet to be approved by the courts, and the federal government continues to engage with Indigenous communities for feedback and input.