New national chief calls for reparations for Indigenous people

The newly-elected leader of the largest advocacy organization for First Nations in Canada has thrown her support behind the idea of reparations for Indigenous people.

Speaking at a virtual press conference one day after being elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald said settler colonialism has had dire effects on Indigenous people in Canada — effects that continue to this day and demand redress.

“Reparations are an essential part of the journey on reconciliation,” Archibald said. “Our communities have had longstanding negative impacts as a result of colonization.”

Archibald was responding to a media question about an report released last week by Sen. Patrick Brazeau, a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec, that examined the history of the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous people. 

In a subsequent interview with online news site iPolitics, Brazeau said his report highlighted a history of “broken promises” and “Band-Aid solutions” to First Nations issues, and that reconciliation must include a “process of reparations.”

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Reparations should go beyond existing settlements: Archibald 

The federal government has set up a number of mechanisms to compensate Indigenous people who experienced specific forms of discrimination or abuse.

The 2007 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement set up a “common experience payment” for all students who attended the government-sanctioned institutions, along with an “independent assessment process” for people who experienced sexual and physical abuse.

So far, those funds have paid out over $4.8 billion to residential school survivors.

A separate nationwide class action lawsuit brought to compensate survivors of federally-operated Indian Day Schools resulted in a settlement with the federal government. That settlement offers former students a range of compensation between $10,000 and $200,000, based on abuse suffered while attending the schools.

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Canada’s Assembly of First Nations has elected its first female national chief, RoseAnne Archibald, after a tough and drawn-out election. 2:01

And a class action settlement agreement with Sixties Scoop survivors, signed in November 2017, set aside $750 million to compensate First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their homes and placed with non-Indigenous foster or adoptive parents between 1951 and 1991, and lost their cultural identities as a result.

Archibald said reparations for Indigenous people must go beyond these existing settlements.

“That’s only one piece of reparations,” said Archibald. “We need those reparations to happen not only with individuals, but communities and nations.”

While Archibald didn’t specify the exact form such reparations should take, Indigenous people often argue it should go beyond money and include returning control over land that was taken from them.