Taking Responsibility for Intergenerational Harms: Indian Residential Schools Reparations in Canada
From 2009 to 2012 the author lived and worked in Whitehorse as a lawyer for Justice Canada. One of her responsibilities was to attend Independent Assessment Process hearings in the role of “Canada’s Representative.” The experience of hearing from survivors and working within the limits of a torts-based process sent the author on an exploration of how harms are classified and remedied in Canadian law. The disconnect she felt between the narrow parameters of the legal process and the ongoing effects of historic harms that were evident in many aspects of northern life needed to be reconciled. Building on previous work that identified and classified harms, the author reviews the thirteen reparations that have been provided for the harms caused by the Indian Residential Schools policy in order to assess how well these reparations, when taken together, are able to address the full range of harms expressed by residential school survivors. The author then suggests additional mechanisms of responsibility, drawn largely from transitional justice theories, which could bring Canadians, as individuals and as a polity, into their role within the intergenerational legacy of the Indian Residential Schools policy and recognize the full range of harms experienced by survivors.
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