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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 03:28 GMT 04:28 UK
Canada agrees native abuse deal
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine
First Nations chief Phil Fontaine has backed a deal
Canada has approved a C$1.9bn ($1.7bn; 925m) deal to compensate ex-pupils of indigenous schools, physically and sexually abused from the 1930s-1970s.

The schools attempted to erase the students' native culture.

The lump sum payment is designed to release the Canadian government and the churches that ran the schools from future liability.

About 78,000 people are eligible for compensation. The payments still have to be approved by provincial courts.

Addressing the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, the Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said that the government recognises the sad legacy of the schools.

He said he hoped that the announcement would bring closure to former students and their descendants.

Bankruptcy fear

For more than 40 years, in what is widely agreed to be one of the most shameful chapters of Canada's history, indigenous children were forcibly placed in the schools jointly run by the Canadian government and the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Churches.

They tried to indoctrinate the children in Christianity and erase their native culture.

But it was not until the 1980s that the huge scale of sexual and physical abuse was fully revealed.

The deal was outlined by the previous Liberal government in an effort to limit the government and the churches' liability.

The Anglican Church of Canada, for instance, said it faced almost certain bankruptcy from a number of class-action suits against it.

The announcement had been delayed by the Canadian election in January which was won by the Conservatives.

Former students, many now elderly, had been anxiously waiting to see whether the new government would adopt the package.

The deal is optional, although most of the victims are expected to accept it.

For those who say they suffered particularly serious abuse, the government has proposed another settlement process.

Country profile: Canada
01 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Abuse payout for native Canadians
23 Nov 05 |  Americas
Canada's troubled native children
31 Jul 02 |  Americas
Abuse in Canada
28 Dec 00 |  Americas
Canada's natives take action
20 Jun 00 |  Americas

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