WINNIPEG – Indigenous Update – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) has expressed its pride in standing shoulder to shoulder with First Nations across the country in marking a significant milestone in the quest for social justice and reconciliation for First Nations children across Turtle Island.
“From the era of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, First Nations leadership in Manitoba has been unwaveringly committed to this cause,” stated Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the AMC. The AMC’s Elders Council, Women’s Council, and Knowledge Keepers have worked tirelessly alongside our Chiefs, seeking social justice and healing initiatives for our children, families, and communities. They continue to confront the impact of colonial government actions on our children and families.”
Decades of Advocacy: The AMC’s Journey
Since the early 1980s, the AMC has been at the forefront of regional advocacy efforts for the care and jurisdiction of First Nations children, families, and communities. The journey has been marked by significant milestones such as the establishment of on-reserve First Nations CFS authorities, the signing of the Framework Agreement Initiative in 1994, and the signing of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry – Child Welfare Initiative, which led to a province-wide CFS mandate for First Nations.
Despite the elimination of the Services To Families program from FNCFSA by Canada, the AMC has continued to work with leadership and agencies to keep children within their Nations by advocating for family enhancement and prevention resources.
A Landmark Decision: The Final Settlement Agreement
On July 26, 2023, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) announced the approval of the Final Settlement Agreement. This significant step addresses historical injustices and discrimination, acknowledging the impacts of racist provincial CFS policies on First Nations and, crucially, providing long-awaited compensation to First Nations children and families who experienced discrimination through the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and the limited application of Jordan’s Principle.
The Final Settlement Agreement, exceeding a total value of $23 billion, is the result of extensive negotiations and collaboration between the Government of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Moushoom and Trout Class Action plaintiffs, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.
Acknowledging the Champions of Justice
The AMC extends its deepest gratitude to all those who played a crucial role in achieving this monumental settlement. The relentless dedication and tenacity of AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse and the Representative Plaintiffs – Ashley Bach, Karen Osachoff, Melissa Walterson, Noah Buffalo-Jackson, Carolyn Buffalo, and Richard Jackson – have been instrumental in advocating for the rights of our communities.
The efforts of the Trout and Moushoom plaintiffs, former AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, and Dr. Cindy Blackstock, whose tireless pursuit of justice has been vital in reaching this significant milestone, are also recognized and appreciated.
“The settlement, while unable to erase the historical injustices endured, marks a pivotal stride in recognizing the harm inflicted on First Nations, and fostering a more promising and fair future for First Nations children and families,” concluded Grand Chief Merrick.
The Road Ahead: Next Steps
Following the CHRT approval, the next step is to present the Final Settlement Agreement to the Federal Court of Canada for approval, expected to take place in October 2023. Compensation to eligible First Nations children and families is anticipated to commence in 2024.