Akwesasne Mohawks react to Canadian settlement money

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:01 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AKWESASNE, QUEBEC (WWNY) - More than $2 billion in settlement money is being paid out to more than 325 First Nations in Canada for the Canadian government’s role in not protecting indigenous children in foster care and its role of cultural destruction in residential schools.

Great Chief Abram Benedict represents the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, a First Nation of more than 20,000 residents and Canada’s second-largest indigenous community.

Recently, Canada agreed to give $2.5 billion to different First Nations across the country, settling a lawsuit regarding the federal foster care system. The claim was that Canada discriminated against hundreds of indigenous children vs. non-indigenous children.

Of the money, several million dollars will go toward Akwesasne’s child welfare system. Chief Benedict couldn’t give 7 News a specific amount.

“The fact that the government is not supporting children in foster care to the same levels as non-indigenous children definitely continues to be colonistic policies of inequity and discrimination,” he said.

But the settlement money also accounts for the Canadian government’s role in placing thousands of First Nation children in Catholic-sponsored residential schools, where cultural identities were stripped and children were abused.

The Canadian government is giving millions to first nations people for their actions in residential schools, but some people say money isn’t enough.

“If you look back on what the damage was with residential schools and what that did to our people and they took our children and placed them in these schools and we’re still dealing with those effects,” said Carolyn Francis, Akwesasne Representative Advocacy Program.

While Canadians are learning more about what happened at residential schools, Benedict says there is much more that needs to be taught.

“You know the residential school is only one aspect which is very huge and detrimental to our people, but it’s really how our people have been treated since contact, since colonization,” he said.

The settlement decision was made three weeks ago. A timeline for when the money is sent to the Akwesasne nation is unknown at this time.