Canada

Indigenous child welfare advocates, feds to provide update on compensation deal

The federal government and Indigenous child welfare advocates will provide an update today on their newly-reached agreement on compensation and long-term reform of First Nations Child and Family Services.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and the parties that have been seeking reparation over the harms caused to First Nations children by Ottawa’s underfunding of the child welfare system will hold a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. EST.

On Saturday, CTVNews.ca confirmed that the two sides had reached a deal, after committing to a Dec. 31 negotiation deadline.

It would put an end to a years-long legal battle that has splintered successive governments’ relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

In February 2007, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society filed a complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) alleging that the federal government discriminated against First Nations children on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, by providing inequitable funding of child welfare services on reserve.

In 2016, the CHRT ruled in their favour and ordered the government cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it and to fully implement Jordan’s Principle.

Jordan’s Principle aims to ensure that First Nations children are given the same access to publicly funded programs and services as all other Canadian children without delay or denial. It applies to children on and off reserve.

Three years later the CHRT ordered the government to pay $40,000 to every First Nations child, parent, and/or grandparent (if the primary caregiver) affected by the underfunded First Nations Child and Family Services since 2006.

It’s estimated that around 54,000 children and their families could be eligible to receive compensation, which would cost the federal government more than $2 billion.

The CHRT also decided that eligibility under Jordan’s Principle should be expanded to include two new categories of children under the legal requirement.

In their terms, a child without Indian Act status who is a citizen or member of a First Nation, and a child without Indian Act status but who has a parent or guardian who is eligible for status, should also be entitled to unimpeded government services.

In September, the Federal Court dismissed Ottawa’s appeals of the CHRT compensation ruling days before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A month later, the government announced that another round of appeals was still on the table but that resolution talks with relevant parties had been launched.

“We have said from the get-go that we want to compensate those children. This is a broad and sweeping decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and we’ve said it before, [we have] certain jurisdictional issues with it. That should not prevent us from moving forward on a global resolution,” Miller said on Oct. 29, adding that there’s work to be done outside the courts.

Murray Sinclair, a former senator and chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, is overseeing the negotiations.

The government has set aside $40 billion for compensation and reform initiatives as outlined in their fall economic and fiscal update.

With a file from The Canadian Press.



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