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Jews Understand Reparations Better than Anyone

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Canada’s oppressive residential schools for indigenous children are in the news now because of the discovery of mass graves at two different sites, containing the bodies of children who died out of neglect or worse at the notorious institutions. Fom 1883 to 1996, anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 children were separated from their families, physically and emotionally abused and forbidden from speaking their native languages, in a process of cultural erasure.

Canada’s indigenous peoples are demanding a reckoning, and, in many cases, reparations for people who, like Native Americans and African Americans in this country, are still struggling with the effects of displacement and discrimination.

Whenever the idea of reparations comes up, usually in the context of slavery, even well-meaning people tend to roll their eyes. Critics of reparations see them as an unearned entitlements, or blunt instruments that would reward rich and poor people alike, or as simply too expensive. “Throwing money at the problem” – as one critic has put it – is a quick fix, when deep structural reforms are needed.

Too often missing in these debates are the voices of a people who have seen reparations in action, and have a close to 70-year history of seeing how they function in the real........

© The Jewish Week

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