The holiday came a day after a federal court upheld a 2016 ruling ordering the Canadian government to compensate Indigenous children in foster care. Thursday’s National Truth and Reconciliation Day and court ruling shed light on the history of discrimination and prejudice against First Nations communities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the holiday recognizes the “intergenerational harms, injustices and trauma that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – as a result of the residential school system, systemic racism and discrimination that persists in our society ”.
“We all need to learn more about the history and legacy of residential schools,” he said in a statement. “It is only by facing these hard truths and correcting these wrongs that we can move forward together towards a more positive, just and better future. “
Thousands of children, mostly Indigenous, were separated from their families and forced to attend residential schools between the 19th century and the 1990s. At least 150,000 Indigenous children across the country were affected, Trudeau said Thursday .
Estimates indicate that more than 4,000 children died in residential schools over a period of decades, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada said in a 2015 report detailing the legacy of the residential school system.
The report details decades of physical, sexual and emotional abuse suffered by children in government and faith-based institutions.
Earlier this year, hundreds of indigenous children’s remains were found at multiple sites, prompting calls for accountability from advocates and indigenous peoples across the country.
The Governor General of Canada, Mary May Simon, said Thursday that “the true history of Canada has been laid bare.”
“These are uncomfortable and often difficult truths to accept. But the truth also unites us as a nation, brings us together to dispel anger and despair, and instead embrace justice, harmony and trust, ”said Simon, who is the first Aboriginal in his role.
Last week, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops apologized for its role in the residential school system and expressed “deep remorse.”
“We recognize the serious abuses that have been committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual, ”the organization said in a statement. “We also sadly recognize the historical and continuing trauma and legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples that endure to this day. “
Indigenous advocates had demanded a formal apology from the Catholic Church and the Pope.
The organization said those demands have been heard and that a delegation of indigenous survivors, elders and youth is expected to meet with Pope Francis in Rome in December.
Court upholds decision to order compensation
Tens of thousands of First Nations children who have been removed from their homes and placed on social assistance may soon receive compensation following a court ruling on Wednesday.
In 2007, the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint alleging that Canada discriminated against First Nations children and families living on reserves in sub- funding the delivery of child and family services. This practice has led many children to be placed in foster care, they argued.
After years of litigation and hearings, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government in 2019 to pay children, parents or grandparents Can $ 40,000 (approximately $ 31,000) each, according to records court. They could receive $ 20,000 for pain and suffering and $ 20,000 for discriminatory practices.
Children who entered foster care before January 1, 2006 and remained in place at least until that date may be eligible for compensation, according to court documents.
While it is not clear how many people could be compensated, the Assembly of First Nations has previously estimated that up to 54,000 people could benefit.
The national government challenged the ruling, but the Federal Court of Canada rejected it and upheld the previous ruling on Wednesday.
“It is not disputed that First Nations occupy a unique position within the constitutional legal structure of Canada. In addition, no one can seriously doubt that First Nations are among the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of Canadian society, ”wrote Justice Paul Favel in his decision. .
CNN has contacted the Caring Society for comment. The Assembly of First Nations called the decision “monumental” and saying Indigenous children and their families deserve justice.
“This is justice in action for First Nations children and families, however, nothing can replace childhoods and connections to languages, lands and loved ones stolen by Canada’s discrimination. tribunal not only for truth and reconciliation, but also for the road to recovery, ”said RoseAnne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, in a statement.
CNN’s Paula Newton and Max Foster contributed to this report.