Agreement reached on Indigenous child welfare compensation

January 1, 2022
Agreement reached on Indigenous child welfare compensation

A compensation agreement has been reached and signed off by all parties to settle a long-standing dispute over the Indigenous child welfare system, CBC News has learned.

Sources close to the negotiations told CBC News the agreement was reached Friday to settle compensation claims related to a landmark Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on Indigenous child welfare compensation.

The parties to the dispute, which include the federal government on one side and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations on the other, agreed to negotiate until a self-imposed deadline of Dec. 31.

The sources spoke to CBC News on condition of confidentiality because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

The dispute revolves around federal funding for the child welfare system on reserves.

It started in 2007, when the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal alleging that the system was flawed and discriminated against First Nations children. The tribunal issued a decision in 2016 concluding that the federal government did discriminate against First Nations children by under-funding the on-reserve child welfare system.

This 2016 images shows children playing at a playground in Attawapiskat First Nation. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

In 2019, the tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 — the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act — to each child, along with their primary guardian, who attended on-reserve child welfare system from at least Jan. 1, 2006, to a date to be determined by the tribunal.

The tribunal also directed the federal government to pay $40,000 to each First Nations child, along with their primary guardian, who was denied services or forced to leave home to access services covered by the policy known as Jordan’s Principle.

A federal court upheld that decision this year. The government appealed, but that appeal was on pause while negotiations continued.

Details of Friday’s agreement were not immediately made public.

In its recent economic statement, issued earlier this month, the federal government earmarked $40 billion for First Nations child welfare. The government set aside the money to cover the cost of settling a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order and class action lawsuits related to the on-reserve First Nations child welfare system, and to fund long-term reforms to the system.

A joint press conference with all parties is expected to be held on Tuesday, where details will be provided, the sources said.

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