Manitoba Daily

Friday, January 28, 2022

Ottawa will include $40 billion in its fiscal update to compensate First Nations kids

Ottawa will include $40 billion in the fiscal update to compensate First Nations children.

Key takeaways:

  • The Liberal government intends to spend $40 billion to compensate First Nations children who have been harmed due to the federal government’s underfunding of child and family services.

The Liberal government plans to spend $40 billion to compensate First Nations children who have been harmed due to Ottawa’s underfunding of child and family services on reserves and reform the current system.

Marc Miller, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced on Monday, the day before the government planned to release a fiscal update in which the funds would be set aside.

The funding is conditional on Ottawa and child-welfare advocates reaching a compensation agreement. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay First Nations children, parents, and grandparents.

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The tribunal found they were harmed due to the government’s insufficient funding for child and family services in their communities, which resulted in families being separated, in a landmark decision.

“This has been 30 years of failure costing a lot of money,” Miller said.

Negotiations began after the federal government announced in late October that it hoped to reach an out-of-court settlement, as well as an agreement to address outstanding issues in the child welfare system and cover the costs of related class actions.

The parties have until December 31st to reach an agreement.

Executive director of the First Nations Caring Society, Cindy Blackstock, one of the case’s litigants, claims that Ottawa has known for years about its unequal funding for First Nations children and is now paying the price for its inaction, which has harmed children.

“Fixing the inequalities would have only cost hundreds of millions of dollars 20 years ago,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Miller said on Monday that about half of the $40 billion would go toward long-term reforms, with the rest going toward compensation. He expressed “cautious optimism” that an agreement would be reached within two weeks. Parliament will adjourn for the holidays on Friday.

“I want everyone to be aware that there are still some very delicate discussions going on,” Miller said.

“There are issues of cost, and there are issues of determining what the proper compensation allocation is among the parties. We’re not done yet.”

The talks are being overseen by Murray Sinclair, a former senator and chairman of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Ottawa will include $40 billion in the fiscal update to compensate First Nations children.
Ottawa will include $40 billion in the fiscal update to compensate First Nations children. Image from CTV News

“Frankly, if we hadn’t had Murray Sinclair, talks would have probably broken down by now,” Miller said.

“Everyone needs to understand that, although no agreement has been reached as of this date, we’ve made progress that would have taken years in an adversarial process.”

After a Federal Court ruling earlier this fall upheld the tribunal’s orders for it to pay $40,000 in damages to each of the thousands of individual First Nations children removed from their homes, as well as some of their relatives, Ottawa entered into negotiations.

The tribunal also ruled that the federal government must broaden its eligibility criteria so that more First Nations children can benefit from Jordan’s Principle, which was created to ensure that jurisdictional disputes over who pays for what do not prevent children from receiving assistance.

One of the parties in the case is the Assembly of First Nations.

Cindy Woodhouse, the Assembly of First Nations’ regional chief who is leading the organization’s negotiations, said in a statement that she is committed to ending discrimination against First Nations children and is focused on finding a solution.

In a statement, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations said, “The magnitude of the proposed compensation package is a testament to how many of our children were ripped from their families and communities.”

Since First Nations confirmed the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites, pressure has mounted on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to drop their court battles over the compensation orders.

Source: CTV News

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