Canada payout for forced child removals
Island recovers slowly after roofs were swept away and crops ruined
1 Canada will pay up to C$750m ($598m) in compensation to thousands of aboriginals who were forcibly removed as children from their families decades ago.
The move is the latest attempt by the government to repair ties with Canada’s indigenous population, which says it has been the victim of systemic racism for centuries.
Welfare authorities took about 20,000 aboriginal children from their homes between the 1960s and 1980s and placed them in foster care or allowed them to be adopted by non-indigenous families. The compensation package is designed to settle lawsuits launched by those affected, who say the forced removal deprived them of their heritage.
Aid workers and officials in Dominica said last week that much of the island remained without power or water and cut off from communications after Hurricane Maria battered it with winds of nearly 260km/h and stripped it of vegetation.
The island of 71,000 people was the first to bear the brunt of the category 5 hurricane when it struck in mid-September. “My roof is gone,” Roosevelt Skerrit, the island’s prime minister, wrote on Facebook. “I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.” Skerrit, who was rescued shortly after, described the storm damage as “mind-boggling”, adding that winds had swept away the roofs of almost everyone he had spoken to. “We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds.”
His appeal was followed by silence. Dominica’s communication towers snapped as the storm crossed the island, cutting it off from the world as it struggled to cope with destruction left by its strongest storm on record.
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team arrived on the island, hours after the storm had passed. “We saw everything totally destroyed,” said team leader Sergio Da Silva. Cars were flipped over on the streets and lush farmland, planted with bananas and sweet potatoes, decimated. Debris from trees and roofs littered the streets. Da Silva said: “We flew over the island, and this island that used to be all green with leaves and trees was totally brown. All the trees were on the ground, there were no leaves left any more.” Officials in Dominica said the hurricane left 27 people dead and more than 50 missing. About 90% of structures on the island have been damaged or destroyed.
Amid shortages of food and water, the number of thefts across the capital, Roseau, began to rise, prompting the government to impose a nationwide curfew from 4pm to 8am.
Things are slowly improving, said Da Silva. Power has been restored to critical buildings such as the hospital. But many parts of the island still lack electricity and running water, while destroyed bridges and washed-out river valleys have left rescuers unable to reach remote communities.
Assistance from around the world has enabled authorities to distribute nearly 200,000 litres of water, along with 5,000 tarpaulins and 17 tonnes of high-energy biscuits. But more is needed, said Chamberlain Emmanuel, of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The unusually active hurricane season has left its mark across the region. Some 95% of houses in Barbuda were affected by the hurricanes, while electricity remains down in many parts of Anguilla.
Skerrit told the UN general assembly in the days following Hurricane Maria: “I come to you straight from the frontline of the war on climate change.” Warmer air and sea temperatures, he said, were supercharging small storms into a devastating force. “We as a country and as a region did not start this war against nature … The war has come to us. While the big countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action, and we need it now.”
Destruction … a debris-littered street in Roseau, Dominica, the day after Hurricane Maria swept through