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North America

'Sixties Scoop': Canada agrees to compensate forcibly-adopted indigenous people

Canada has described a deal to compensate thousands of indigenous victims of forced adoptions as a step forward. But some have criticized the move, saying the amount is "disappointing" after decades of forced removals.

The Canadian government on Friday agreed "in principle" to pay up to 800 million Canadian dollars (€544 million, $638 million) in compensation to all First Nations and Inuit children forcibly removed from their homes in a process known as the "Sixties Scoop."

From the 1960s to the 1980s, Canada's child welfare services forcibly removed indigenous children from their parents and placed them with non-native families in parts of Canada, the US and elsewhere.

Read more: Canada's First Nations fighter for their heritage

"The Sixties Scoop was a dark painful chapter in Canada's history. The survivors have identified the loss of language and culture, and therefore their identity, as the greatest harm," said Canadian Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in a statement.

Victims of the decades-long process of forced adoption will receive a payout of a maximum of 50,000 Canadian dollars each, though the amount could be half that if there are more than 20,000 claimants.

Marcia Brown Martel, the lead plaintiff, claims she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused in foster care

Marcia Brown Martel, the lead plaintiff, claims she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused in foster care

'Never, ever happen in Canada again'

But some representatives of the affected indigenous groups said the compensation was not enough to make up for the decades of culturally violent assimilation.

"It's quite disappointing," Colleen Cardinal, who co-founded the National Indigenous Survivors of Child Welfare Network, told AP news agency. Cardinal said she had been taken in by a family near Ontario and accused her adopted father of sexually abusing her sisters.

Read more: Canada to investigate killings of First Nations women

"It's quite low. It should be 80,000 or 100,000 Canadian dollars. A lot of us were taken out of the province, out of the country, taken so far away from our families."

Marcia Brown Martel, the lead plaintiff if the case, described the events surrounding the process of forced adoption as the "stealing of children."

"I have great hope that because we've reached this plateau that this will never, ever happen in Canada again," said Brown Martel.

Failed 'duty of care'

Under the agreement-in-principle, the Canadian government will allocate 50 million Canadian dollars for the establishment of a foundation that will "focus on healing, wellness, language, culture and commemoration."

"The creation of a foundation will directly address the need for survivors to claim a secure personal cultural identity," Bennett said.

Read more: First Nations woman seeks justice for 'Stolen Sisters'

In February, Ontario Superior Court Justice ruled that Canada breached its "duty of care" to the children of indigenous parents, effectively holding the government liable for the long-running process of forced-adoption.

The Canadian government said the agreement-in-principle was just one step to mending ties with the country's indigenous population, and will likely be finalized in the beginning of 2018.

ls/jm (AP, dpa)

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