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.

RoseAnne Archibald says redress must go beyond payments to residential, day school and Sixties Scoop survivors

Former Ontario regional chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Taykwa Tagamou Nation (formerly New Post First Nation) became national chief of the Assembly of First Nations on Thursday. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

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 a 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."

WATCH: New national chief RoseAnne Archibald speaks to CBC's Power & Politics about her plans for change at the Assembly of First Nations

New National Chief hopes to evolve Assembly of First Nations

2 years ago
Duration 14:03
"My goal and my drive is to actually evolve this organization and make it responsive to First Nations, so that First Nations people everywhere can look at the AFN and see themselves represented," says newly elected National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

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.

WATCH: New national chief calls for reparations for Indigenous people

New national chief calls for reparations for Indigenous people

2 years ago
Duration 0:56
National chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, says settler colonialism has had such negative historical effects on Indigenous people in Canada — effects that continue to this day — that they deserve redress.

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.

CBC requested comment from the federal government but has not received a response. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party is open to the idea of reparations.

"We know that the Government of Canada has stolen the lives, the culture, the identity, and the future of Indigenous people across Canada," Singh said in a media statement. "We must listen to those hurt the most by colonization and take action to build a new pathway towards reconciliation."

Jamie Schmale, Conservative critic for Crown-Indigenous relations, said his party recognizes that more work needs to be done to address the harmful effects residential schools have had on survivors.

"We also know that the path to reconciliation must be walked in partnership with Indigenous peoples," Schmale said in a media statement. "Trudeau has demonstrated time after time that he has no plans and only hollow words for Canada's Indigenous peoples."

Schmale said Conservatives have called on the Liberal government to take immediate action to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions' calls to action that deal with missing children and those who died at residential schools.

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