Exposed to severe abuse – now indigenous families receive billion compensation – NRK Sápmi

What happened in Canada from 1883 to 1996 is described as cultural genocide. The first inhabitants of the country were deprived of their children. They were sent to boarding schools.

There, children were abused, mistreated and malnourished. They were given a number instead of a name. They were refused to speak their mother tongue.

– The Catholic Church in Canada has a history of which it cannot be proud. Among other things, theological understandings helped to legitimize this colonial policy and the implementation of assimilation.

This is what Tore Johnsen, associate professor at Kirkelig utdanningssenter nord of VID Tromsø, tells NRK.

RESEARCHER: Tore Johnsen is an associate professor in the Faculty of Theology, Diakonia and Management.

Photo: Dan Robert Larsen / NRK

Billion dollar compensation for Indigenous children

Johnsen explains that from the late 18th century there was a widespread theological view in the West that Christianity and culture were closely linked.

Christianity was thought to be associated with high civilization, a gradation that corresponded to notions of racial hierarchy.

– Indigenous cultures were seen as less valuable and lower in the hierarchy. The Christians then thought that the native peoples had to be brought up to their level. It was considered a good deed, says Johnsen, says Johnsen.

Fort Simpson Indian Residential School students

SHOULD HELP: Students at Fort Simpson Indian Residential School

Photo: HANDOUT/Reuters

A federal court this week ordered Canadian authorities to pay compensation of 2 to 10 billion crowns to the indigenous peoples of the country, writes The Guardian.

Compensation will go to parents and children of Indigenous nations who were previously placed on public assistance in Canadian residential schools, reports CNN.

Indigenous peoples call the verdict a great victory.

Justin Trudeau

APOLOGY: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Photo: Reuters

This summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked to apologize for the incredibly devastating politics.

The authorities must pay compensation of up to NOK 270,000 to relatives and children.

It is still unclear how many are affected. Indigenous peoples’ own organizations estimate that more than 50,000 indigenous peoples may be entitled to compensation.

Hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered for children who died in Canadian residential schools for unknown reasons. The Catholic Church ran several boarding schools and apologized this week.

Students and a nun pictured in a classroom at the Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Canada in February 1940

Students and a nun pictured in a classroom at the Cross Lake Indian Residential School in Canada in February 1940

Photo: Library and Archives Canada

Approximately 150,000 children have been affected by the Canadian authorities’ assimilation policy towards Aboriginal peoples.


Johnsen researched theology, anti-Sami racism, and the need for decolonization.

Decolonization in this context means discovering how certain mentalities legitimized and naturalized colonial oppression.

He sheds light on the subject in the article “The man first, the Christian second”, which will be published shortly.

– The understanding that the Christian faith was linked to a healthy civilization is part of the basis of abuses against indigenous peoples in Canada and the Nordic countries, Johnsen explains.

Migrant Sami children at school, Karasjok January 1950

NORWEGIANIZATION: Sami children were to learn to become “good Norwegian citizens” just like native children in Canada. The abuse is not as serious as in Canada. The people in the photo have no direct connection to the case.

Photo: Sverre A. Borretzen / SCANPIX

He says to Our country that theological decolonization has only just begun.

– We need to discuss this decolonization both in the majority society and in the Sami society. Among other things, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should examine the role of the church in Norwegianization, suggests Johnsen.

He has no opinion on whether the Commission should propose individual compensation. In any case, he feels it is important to recognize that the policy of norvegization has not only affected the individuals who have been directly affected, but also the whole collective.

The living conditions on as people radically changed, which was the goal of the whole policy. The assessment of appropriate measures of reparation and remedial measures should therefore take into account both the individual and collective damage suffered by the Sami community, he believes.

Norwegianization policy refers to the public policy pursued by the Norwegian authorities to assimilate the Sami into Norwegian society.

For about 100 years from around 1850, the official Norwegian policy was that the Sami should become like other Norwegians.

Some believe that Norwegianization still exists to this day.

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