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The Government of Canada to Pay $20 Billion To Settle Lawsuit With Indigenous Family Services

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The final settlement agreement has been years in the making!

The Government of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations (AFT), and the plaintiffs in the Mushroom and Trout class actions announced the final settlement agreement regarding compensation for First Nations Child and Family Services. The Parties arrived at a final settlement agreement of $20 billion that recognizes the harm to First Nations children and their families and ensures fair compensation for their suffering.

Under the Indian Act, the care of First Nations peoples falls under the Federal government’s jurisdiction. Therefore, when it came to providing vital services to the Indigenous community, such as health care, it was a grey between the government of Canada and the provinces when it came time to decide who would be responsible for the financial costs. Because of the crack in the system, Indigenous people suffered immensely, essentially forcing the creation of Jordan’s Principle.

Jordan’s Principle is a legal requirement found by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). “Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle that aims to eliminate service inequities and delays for First Nations children” (AFN). It states that any public service available to other children must be available to First Nations Children.

In January 2022, the Government of Canada announced that the Agreements-in-Principle had reached a global resolution relating to compensating those harmed by discriminatory underfunding of First Nations Child and Family Services.

The Agreements-in Principle was created as a foundation for the final settlement contract. The settlement of the negotiations will result in compensation for children and families harmed by discriminatory underfunding, as well as the implementation of measures that will enhance the needs of children, youth, and families in the future.

“Truth and reconciliation challenges all of us to think and act in new ways. Our journey will be filled with moments such as this where, as a government, we need to recognize where injustices and harm have been experienced by First Nations children and families. This agreement presents a renewed opportunity to work together to build a positive, healing future for First Nations children and families in Canada. I believe that if we move forward together―with openness and determination―we can build a better future with Indigenous Peoples.” The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

The agreement provides $20 billion, and, once approved by the Federal Court and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal; the following groups will be eligible for compensation:

  • Children who were removed from their homes under the First Nations Child and Family Services program between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022
  • Children who were impacted by the government’s narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle between December 12, 2007 and November 2, 2017
  • Children who did not receive or were delayed in receiving an essential public service or product between April 1, 1991 and December 11, 2007
  • Caregiving parents or caregiving grandparents of the children above may also be eligible for compensation

The plan is also to create a long-term reform agreement to support the renewed approach to Jordan’s Principle and other initiatives undertaken by Indigenous Services Canada. The agreement-in-principle on long-term reform includes approximately $20 billion over the first five years for long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services program to ensure that the discrimination found by the CHRT does not happen again. This includes:

  • Funding that is focused on culturally appropriate prevention activities and based on substantive equality and the best interests and needs of First Nations children, youth, young adults, and families.
  • Use of evidence-informed well-being indicators for First Nations children, youth, families and First Nations to inform best practices and improve federal child and family services policies, procedures, agreements, and legislation over time.
  • Child and family services funding to support young First Nations adults aging out of the child welfare system and formerly in care up to their 26th birthday.
  • Funding for prevention services to build on multi-generational cultural strengths to help children and families stay together.
  • Funding to expand First Nations Representative Services to all provinces and in the Yukon.
  • New funding for housing on reserves in relation to the needs of First Nations children.

“First Nations children have always deserved to be treated fairly and equitably, and this $20 billion compensation settlement recognizes that this was not the policy nor the practice. We look forward to its ratification by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Federal Court so that compensation can begin to reach the children and families impacted.” Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse.

The shared goal for all parties involved is to prioritize the well-being of First Nations children and their families.