Money to compensate young victims of Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system is expected to start flowing to First Nations over the next year, now that the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN ) have reached a final settlement agreement.
Ottawa, the AFN and the plaintiffs in two class action lawsuits reached a tentative agreement earlier this year. The parties announced on Monday that the agreement had been finalized.
According to Indigenous Services Canada, the colony is the largest in Canadian history.
A total of $20 billion will be made available for:
- First Nations children on reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022.
- Those affected by what the government called its “narrow definition” of Jordan’s Principle, used between December 12, 2007 and November 2, 2017.
- Children who did not receive an essential public service or who were delayed in accessing these services between April 1, 1991 and December 11, 2007.
- Caregiver parents or grandparents of children covered by the agreement who may also be eligible for compensation.
Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse said in a statement to media that she expects the money to start coming in next year.
“We kept our children in our hearts and prayers throughout the negotiations,” Woodhouse said in his statement.
The final agreement still has to be approved by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Federal Court.
The non-binding deal reached earlier this year also includes $20 billion for long-term reform of the on-reserve child welfare system, but a final settlement on that part has yet to be reached.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that $40,000 should be paid for each First Nations child placed unnecessarily in foster care.
Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said in January that the $20 billion should cover those minimum payments and those who may be entitled to more.
“I hope that the judicial process to approve the agreement will be expeditious and that individuals and families can have the certainty and resolution that they have asked for,” Hajdu said in a press release Monday.
The Federal Court had rejected Canada’s request to review two human rights tribunal orders on child welfare and Jordan’s Principle, which aims to eliminate jurisdictional disputes over payment for government services for First Nations children.
The government said at the time that it did not object to compensation. He argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to order specific compensation amounts in the manner of a class action.
The government also disputed that the order would award the same amount of money to someone who spent a day in foster care as to someone who spent their entire childhood there.
In his ruling, Justice Paul Favel said negotiations could help achieve the goal of reconciliation and would be “the preferred outcome of Indigenous peoples and of Canada.”
The government has said it intends to appeal the ruling, but will put litigation on hold as it enters negotiations and drop the appeal altogether once the deal is approved . The Federal Court is expected to review the deal in September, according to the AFN.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, called on the government to immediately drop its appeal.
“The Caring Society believes that Canada should immediately pay human rights compensation to the victims and drop their appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal,” she said in a tweet.