TORONTO, April 26 — In a long delayed conclusion to a dark chapter of Canadian history, negotiators have reached an agreement to compensate 80,000 Native Canadians who attended a government-financed school system where many suffered physical and sexual abuse.
The widespread incidence of alcoholism, family violence and incest in many Native Canadian communities has long been linked to the experiences of generations who attended the so-called residential schools, which were dedicated to forced assimilation and operated for more than a century, until the 1980's.
Typically, government agents forced Inuit, Cree and other children to leave their parents and attend the schools, where they were harshly punished for speaking their own languages or practicing their religions.
Negotiators representing the government, native peoples and several churches that administered the schools agreed that nearly $2 billion would be paid out in damages. Payments are set to begin next year, but will possibly be accelerated for the elderly and the sick.
The accord, which negotiators called one of the largest damage settlements in Canada's history, needs cabinet and court approval, but that is considered a formality.
Jim Prentice, the Indian affairs and northern development minister, announced the agreement without fanfare on the floor of the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon. There was no official apology, although the federal government had already admitted that sexual and physical abuse in the schools was widespread.