Canada payout for forced child re­movals

Is­land re­cov­ers slowly af­ter roofs were swept away and crops ru­ined

The Guardian Weekly - - World roundup - Ashifa Kas­sam

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.”

Getty

De­struc­tion … a de­bris-lit­tered street in Roseau, Do­minica, the day af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria swept through

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