Ottawa has officially announced it has reached agreements in principle with First Nations partners to compensate children harmed by its underfunding of child welfare.
The federal Liberal government says of the $40 billion earmarked to be spent on the matter, $20 billion will pay for compensation and the other $20 billion will be spent on reforming the system over five years.
It says First Nations children living on reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991, and March 31, 2022, are set to be compensated, along with their parents and caregivers.
Ottawa says this includes those affected by what it calls the government’s narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle between Dec. 12, 2007, and Nov. 2, 2017, as well children who were unable to access an essential public service or product from April 1, 1991, to Dec. 11, 2007.
Jordan’s Principle is a measure stipulating that jurisdictional disputes should not get in the way of providing services to First Nations children.
The government says final settlement agreements must still be negotiated over the coming months.
It says money will flow once these agreements are reached and the necessary court and human rights orders have been made.
Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse was among those at the negotiating table, and says more than 200,000 children and their families will be affected by this settlement, which stems from government discrimination.
“This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s in fact about poverty,” she told a news conference in Ottawa.
“And First Nations children being removed from their families and communities instead of being provided help with food, clothing or shelter.”
The battle began in 2007 when the First Nations Children and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint arguing chronic underfunding of child welfare services on reserve was discriminatory when compared to services provided by provincial governments to kids off reserve.
Following multiple unsuccessful court challenges and appeals by the former Conservative government, the complaint was heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2013 and 2014.
In 2016, the tribunal ruled the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children.
—Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press