NAN disappointed in rejection of child welfare settlement agreement

Nishnawbe Aski Nation leaders say they're disappointed in the rejection a compensation settlement agreement for First Nations children who went through the child welfare system.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rejected the final settlement agreement that had been reached between the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations. A condition of that agreement was that it be endorsed by the tribunal. In a summary of its decision, the tribunal found that while the agreement substantially fulfilled its orders, it does not do so fully.

NAN Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse said the decision “is going to delay the much needed compensation that is owed to our children.”

“I know money isn’t really the answer to everything, but still, many of our children who were in the child protective services that were eligible for this funding, will now have to wait a little more,” he said.

Narcisse said it’s important to continue discussions.

“I know that through our intervenor status that the compensation package is not off the table, it just means that we’re going to have to go back to the table, and look at ways to ensure that this compensation package is rolled out in such a way that is responsible to ensure that there’s mental health supports available,” Narcisse said.

“We have to be there at the table to really ensure the voices of our community across Treaty 5 and Treaty 9 and our priorities are really there.”

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said the next step is to review the analysis behind the summary decision, which the Tribunal should send out soon.

“[We’re] trying to get at what the Tribunal feels is a missing aspect to the settlement and trying to strengthen the settlement to ensure that we meet the terms of the tribunal,” said Hajdu.

“What [the First Nations organizations and entities who worked on the agreement] have said to me is that there is a sense of disappointment,” she said. “What I am saying to partners is, to not give up, because the government is going to stay with the process until we get to a negotiated solution that works for people.“

However, she said she can’t give a timeline even though “that sometimes makes waiting easier for people, but it can also set expectations very high and I don’t want to do that.”

Hajdu said the Tribunal recognized that this is first time a settlement of this size has been designed by First Nations people and will be delivered through First Nations principles, but felt there is still some work to do.

“So it’s not exactly going back to the drawing board entirely, It’s about trying to refine the settlement and the agreement if you will in a way that assures the tribunal that their orders have been met,” she said.

“We will get there, I know we will get there. It is disappointing, but it’s not the end of the road,” she said. “And I think that there’s a way that we can find a path together that gets to the premise of the agreement in principle, which is First Nations led, First Nations delivered, and fair and equitable.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source