AFN and Representatives Seek Federal Court’s Approval in Landmark Case for First Nations Families
In a landmark legal stride, the Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) legal counsel, alongside representatives for class action parties Moushoom and Trout, are slated to appear before the Federal Court of Canada today. The primary agenda is to secure approval for the Final Settlement Agreement (FSA) concerning compensation. This approval signifies a pivotal step towards ensuring that First Nations children and families, who have been adversely impacted by discriminatory practices within the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and the narrow application of Jordan’s Principle, receive due compensation for the injustices endured.
The FSA, a result of over two years of meticulous negotiations, encompasses more than $23 billion set aside to compensate over 300,000 children and families affected. Earlier this year, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal gave its nod of approval for the FSA.
Interim National Chief Joanna Bernard expressed, “Although no amount can truly compensate for the injustices faced by First Nations children and families, the Final Settlement Agreement symbolizes an acknowledgment of these harms and the decades of wrongdoing.” She further recognized the valour of the Representative Plaintiffs amidst this prolonged journey and everyone who contributed along the way. Bernard sees this compensation as a stepping stone towards healing for the affected individuals and a beacon of hope for ensuring such incidents are never repeated, courtesy of the forthcoming long-term reform measures to the system.
AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, the lead negotiator for AFN, highlighted, “These hearings are the climax of a years-long endeavour to secure recognition of the harms inflicted by Canada on First Nations children and families.” The AFN, along with the legal parties, representative plaintiffs, and affected families, stands united in fighting for long-overdue compensation. Woodhouse expressed optimism that the FSA, embodying the best outcomes for the maximum possible claimants, receives swift approval from the courts, enabling the commencement of compensation disbursement to the affected individuals.
The hearings are poised to lead to a federal court decision, which will either approve or refute the specifics within the FSA, including the eligibility of class claimants. Upon approval, the FSA will delineate the subsequent steps for applications to claimants and the procedure for issuing compensation. The negotiations also included requests for cultural safety support to be extended to all potential claimants.
Reflecting on the protracted process, Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse remarked, “It has taken an exorbitantly long time to reach this juncture. No sum of money will ever suffice for what First Nations children and families have undergone through Canada’s discriminatory practices, but compensation for these experiences is both necessary and overdue. It is an acknowledgment of the harm.”
In anticipation of these hearings, both the AFN Interim National Chief and Manitoba Regional Chief have penned a formal letter to the Prime Minister, urging for a public formal apology in the House of Commons, with an invitation extended to the Representative Plaintiffs to witness this gesture of acknowledgment firsthand.
This apology is envisaged as yet another step towards healing for the First Nations children and families. The AFN continues its negotiation for long-term reform measures to eradicate discriminatory practices from the FNCFS system and ensure a broader and fairer application of Jordan’s principle, paving the way for a more equitable future.