In the 1800s, the Canadian government and Canadian churches did what many Europeans have a long history of doing, they removed Native Indigenous Canadians from their perspective tribes because the government believed they needed to become “better assimilated”.
The country’s government decided to take these Native children away from their families and create schools where they were banned from speaking their native tongue. They were forced to dress like North Americans and taught what kids in North American schools would learn.
Many years later, research found what we already knew was a hard and obvious truth, the Canadian government and churches had a goal to rid these young people of their Aboriginal culture. On the site, http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca, you can find the following from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who wrote an official apology in 2008:
“Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child.” Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.“
The schools were shut down in the 50s, however the government and churches still allowed Native children to be removed from their families, if they believed they could have “better” lives with other families. This became known at the Sixties Scoop and many believe that at least 20,000 children were removed from their homes. Over the years, many of those children were placed in loving homes, while others were placed in homes where they were treated as slaves, and experienced physical and sexual abuse. A report published by The Aboriginal Committee of the Family and Children’s Services Legislation Review Panel reported:
“Even the best of these homes are not healthy places for our children. Anglo-Canadian foster parents are not culturally equipped to create an environment in which a positive Aboriginal self-image can develop. In many cases, our children are taught to demean those things about themselves that are Aboriginal.”
With all of these findings and after years of research and pressure, the Canadian government has decided to give the children who were kidnapped from their families reparations, totaling an amount of $800 million. If fewer than 20,000 claim these funds, each person will receive $50,000; and if more than 20,000 make a claim, each individual will receive $25,000.
Of course no amount of money will ever make up for the atrocities these children faced, but at least the Canadian government is trying to make amends. Hopefully more governments around the world will begin to understand the long-term affects that ethnic cleansing and removal has had on generations of people of color across the globe. Though $25,000 or a $50,000 payout will not replace Native Aboriginal culture, the hope with that these children will be able to remedy some of the affects of being separated from their culture, and use this money to rebuild and bring attention to the importance of the original people who were here in North America.