Compensating Canada's Stolen Generations

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In response to the Royal Commission Report, the Canadian government issued a Statement of Reconciliation in 1998. In it the government acknowledged that the Canadian residential school system separated many children from their families and communities and prevented them from speaking their own languages and from learning about their own heritage and cultures. The government further accepted the key role it had played in the development and administration of the schools. Children who were the victims of sexual and physical abuse were singled out for special mention. The statement included the Canadian government's explicit apology to all the victims of the residential school system. In addition, the Minister of Indian Affairs announced the availability of $350 million for community-based healing, earmarked for those who suffered the effects of physical and sexual abuse.

No monetary compensation was offered for individual victims, however. In reaction, victims of the residential school system turned to the Canadian courts. By June 1998, approximately 1,000 lawsuits were filed. It is estimated that by early 2004, more than 5,000 people may have entered into litigation for damages against the Canadian government. It has also been reported that by March 1999, some $20 million had been spent by the Canadian government in settling residential school claims. It is not clear how the state is likely to deal with these cases in the future, however. It may opt for out-of-court settlements in order to avoid setting legal precedent for the concept of monetary reparations. Residential Schools and the Crime of Genocide

Although the term genocide was raised during the hearings of the Royal Commission, the remark was dismissed as a "rhetorical flourish," It can be argued, however, that this dismissal was at least premature. Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide to include the causing of serious bodily or...
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