Canada’s government says it will pay millions of dollars in compensation to indigenous children who were taken from their families decades ago and placed up for adoption.

The government said Friday that an estimated 20,000 indigenous children who were taken by welfare authorities between the 1960s and 1980s and placed for adoption or in foster care will share in a payout of nearly $600 million.

In the so-called “Sixties Scoop,” the children were placed with non-native families in Canada as well as other countries. Many lost touch with their relatives and native language.

Several of the children, who are now adults, have sued, saying they lost their aboriginal identity and suffered a range of problems, including mental disorders, substance abuse and suicide.

“Language and culture, apology, healing — these are essential elements to begin to right the wrong of this dark and painful chapter,” said Carolyn Bennett, the federal government minister in charge of relations with the indigenous population.

The compensation package follows a ruling last February by an Ontario Superior Court justice that found Canada’s government liable for the suffering caused to the children, saying the government had breached its “duty of care.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian leaders have already apologized for many of the abuses to indigenous people that the government committed over a 150-year period.

Canada made an apology in 2008 to survivors of a residential school program over the last century in which 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken from their families and put in government schools.

The indigenous children were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Several thousand of the children are believed to have died from ill treatment.

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