Arbitrator appointed in federal Jordan’s Principle case

·2 min read

The man who became Manitoba's first and Canada's second Indigenous judge has been enlisted to help the federal government and First Nations come to an agreement over the class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of children who were removed from their homes and communities and placed in non-Indigenous foster care.

Retired Senator Murray Sinclair – who was named to the Senate in 2016 and retired earlier this year, and is the former the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – will act as an arbitrator for settlement negotiation between the federal government and the class-action petitioners.

A statement issued by the government touted Sinclair’s bona fides as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are beyond reproach.

“Senator Sinclair played an instrumental role for many years advancing reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In 2009, Senator Sinclair became the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He led hundreds of community hearings, sharing circles, and regional gatherings across Canada, in which thousands of Residential School Survivors shared their difficult and often traumatizing experiences. Senator Sinclair ensured that their stories – and the long-lasting impacts of colonialism on Indigenous Peoples – have been properly documented, so that it will never be forgotten,” the government said.

The suit came about after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the government to pay $40,000 each to the thousands of children removed from their homes and sent to foster care in non-Indigenous communities.

Ottawa appealed the CHRT ruling in 2019 in Federal Court, but the court ruled against the federal government, and federal authorities have committed to settling the case in the next few months, and any appeal from Ottawa is “on pause,” new Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said earlier this month.

Miller said the government will work to ensure the government 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.

Last week, Miller said the government will go forward with settlement negotiations as long as it is feasible to do so, but he did say the government may still appeal the Federal Court ruling if negotiations break down, adding the process will cost “billions,” of dollars to make Indigenous people whole and negotiations between the government and the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, the Chiefs of Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Moushoom/Trout counsel are ongoing.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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