Ottawa Appeals Human Rights Tribunal Ruling Continuing Fight Against Indigenous Children

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Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu

Thunder Bay – The Government of Canada is appealing a ruling that ordered the federal government to compensate First Nations children who were removed from their homes. The announcement came late Friday on the last day that it was open to appeal the earlier court ruling.

“It’s disturbing to see the federal government has not yet been able to put down its sword against First Nations children” stated Cindy Blackstock who is one of the participants in the case.

The move comes with newly swore in Ministers Mark Miller and Patty Hajdu at the helms of the government’s Indigenous departments.

However the government also states that both of parties have agreed to keep talking about next steps in the hope they can reach an agreement outside court.

The decision to appeal the decision that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finding that the federal government discriminated against First Nations children by knowingly underfunding child and family services for those living on reserve.

The case was first brought forward in 2007.

The Canadian Human Rights tribunal determined that each First Nations child, along with their parents or grandparents, who were separated because of this chronic underfunding were eligible to receive $40,000 each in federal compensation, which is the maximum amount it could award.

This could cost the federal government $2 billion in claims compensation. It has been estimated some 54,000 children and their families could qualify, meaning Ottawa could be on the hook to pay more than $2 billion.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus states, “Justin Trudeau waited until the last minute to announce he is sending his lawyers back to court to attempt to overturn the human rights tribunal ruling that found his government guilty of willful and reckless discrimination against First Nation kids.

“The federal court ruled that the Trudeau government knew massive harms were being perpetrated; that they ignored reasonable solutions that were being put on the table and that the government falsely claimed that the government of Canada was actually the victim of injustice. The courts didn’t buy it. Canadians are not buying this bad blood and bad faith action”.

The decision has Indigenous organizations disappointed.

MKO Disappointed by Government of Canada’s Appeal of the Federal Court Ruling

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement to express disappointment in the decision made by the Government of Canada to appeal the court ruling made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to compensate First Nations children impacted by the on-reserve child welfare system.

In September 2019, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 — the maximum the tribunal can award — to each First Nations child removed from his or her home after 2006. It also told Ottawa to compensate the child’s parents or grandparents, whoever were the primary caregivers.

Indigenous advocates continue to argue that taking First Nations children to court isn’t consistent with true reconciliation.

“Today’s decision is extremely disappointing. I urge the Government of Canada to drop this notice to appeal and end the discrimination against First Nations children and their families,” shared Grand Chief Garrison Settee.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse states, “We are disappointed that Canada has not abided by the rulings of the Federal Court and filed this appeal, looking again to litigation to sort out its obligations to First Nations children. We acknowledge that Canada has tabled a significant offer that Parties to this litigation believe may provide a path forward through, and we respect that they have agreed to pause litigation and enter into negotiations that will hopefully lead to a lasting agreement.”

“But we are very frustrated with this process. NAN expects, and demands, robust Nation-to-Nation discussions with this government to address our unique issues, including remoteness, and will address these though our established bilateral process with our federal Treaty partner. We will be at the table for all negotiations but will continue our own process to address issues specific to our First Nations communities.”

The Parties have agreed to immediately work towards reaching a global resolution on outstanding issues that have been the subject of litigation by December 2021. This will include:

• providing fair, equitable compensation to First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes by child and family services agencies, as well as those who were impacted by the government’s narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle;
• achieving long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Service program; and
• funding for the purchase and/or construction of capital assets that support the delivery of child and family services on-reserve and Jordan’s Principle.

Canada has filed a protective appeal of the Federal Court decision of September 29, 2021. This appeal will be on hold and the focus will be on reaching an agreement outside of Court and at the negotiating table.

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