Indigenous organization in Sask. applauds Federal Court for upholding compensation order for children

·2 min read
The judicial review upholds a landmark decision that would order Canada to pay billions to those affected by the child welfare system.  (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)
The judicial review upholds a landmark decision that would order Canada to pay billions to those affected by the child welfare system. (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is calling the Federal Court's decision to dismiss a judicial review and uphold a compensation order for First Nations children a "win."

In September 2019, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child affected by the on-reserve child welfare system since Jan. 1, 2006.

The order also extended to some of the parents and grandparents of children who were apprehended, as long as the child had not been abused by them.

The Federal Court also upheld a tribunal ruling for Ottawa to pay $40,000 to First Nations children and guardians who were forced to leave their homes to access services or who were denied services covered by Jordan's Principle — a policy meant to ensure First Nations children have access to health, social and education supports and services.

Within the next month, the Trudeau government filed a judicial review that was slapped down in court on Wednesday.

Without an appeal, Ottawa will be ordered to pay billions of dollars to First Nations families affected by the child welfare system.

"Our most important resource in this world is our children. The federal government has spent millions of dollars fighting First Nations children in court for years, and it is a win for our children and their families," said Clarence Bellegarde, chief of Little Black Bear First Nation and interim spokesperson for the FSIN.

"We must ensure that each of these victims is supported and programs and services are made available for all of these families so that they can truly begin their healing journeys."

Federal Court ruling

The judicial review dismissed on Wednesday has been building since 2007, when the Caring Society and Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging Canada violated the Canadian Human Rights Act for their poor delivery of child and family services on reserve.

Ottawa opposed the compensation decision, saying the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to grant compensation for systemic discrimination.

Ottawa also opposed the expansion of eligibility for those involved, which the Caring Society argued ought to be broader.

Both judicial reviews were struck down.

"In my view, the procedural history of this case has demonstrated that there is, and has been, good will resulting in significant movements toward remedying this unprecedented discrimination," Justice Paul Favel wrote in his ruling. "However, the good work of the parties is unfinished."

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