Noah’s story and the fight for services and dignity for First Nations children


Over the last 21 years, Noah Buffalo-Jackson has fought for healthcare, basic services and dignity.

Noah is the representative plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government that led to a $40 billion legal settlement. A representative plaintiff sues on behalf of a whole group of people in a class action lawsuit.

This lawsuit, a combination of two class action lawsuits and a final judgment order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, was targeted for a settlement last year.

The Final Settlement Agreement, or FSA, was written, it just needed approval from the Federal Court and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

It was supposed to be a victory for First Nations children and families but the FSA is now on hold.

Noah Buffalo-Jackson
Richard Jackson (left), Noah Buffalo-Jackson (centre) and Carolyn Buffalo (right) wait outside Noah’s aunt’s home in Edmonton for Noah’s uncle to come assist in getting him inside because there is no wheelchair ramp. The Buffalo-Jackson family has to often make the 100 km trek from their home community near Maskwacis, Alberta to access services for Noah. Photo: Brent McGillivray/APTN

 

Carolyn Buffalo, Noah’s mother, says her son takes the responsibility very seriously.

“Noah regards this as his work,” said Buffalo. “We’re really, really proud of his courage and his willingness to do this and to be an advocate for other kids.”

Twenty billion dollars of the settlement is earmarked for compensation to First Nations children and families wronged by the child welfare and healthcare systems.

The deal is for First Nations children only across all provinces and the Yukon. The Northwest Territories is not included in the settlement.

The other $20 billion will be put toward fixing the system.

A final settlement agreement means all parties agree not to go to court but instead come to an agreed solution to their dispute.

This proposed agreement combined two class action lawsuits about Indigenous health care and child welfare with the CHRT ruling.

However, everything is now on hold because the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal would not approve the agreement.


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$20B child welfare deal on hold after CHRT rules against it 


“We’re disappointed right now. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, if anything,” Buffalo told APTN Investigates after the announcement.

“Noah feels bad already, you know, he feels really, really awful because . . .  he looks at himself as an advocate for other children,” said Buffalo.

In December 2022, the Assembly of First Nations said that it would continue to pursue negotiations with Canada to finalize this agreement.

Later that same month, the CHRT released the reasons for its rejection of the deal.

The tribunal would not accept the final settlement agreement because it altered part of their compensation order. Some children or families may get less than $40,000 while others may not get anything at all.

Noah Buffalo-Jackson
Canada Place in Edmonton is where Indigenous Services Canada’s offices are located. Canada is the primary health insurer for most First Nation people. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government discriminates against First Nation children. Photo: Brent McGillivray/APTN

The CHRT ruled in 2016 that all victims of discrimination in the First Nations child welfare system, and in health care under Jordan’s Principle program would get $40,000 each.

Buffalo is disappointed the final settlement has been delayed but says it’s the $20 billion for long-term reform that could make a big difference.

“We just wanted the basic things that his doctors and his therapist and his medical caregivers said he needed. We weren’t asking for the moon. We weren’t asking for anything special, just what everybody else got,” said Buffalo.

The Buffalo-Jackson family remains hopeful that this will get finalized.

Carolyn Buffalo spoke to the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in early December.

She told them, “This is not about anyone of us. It’s not about any one person. It’s not about any organization. It’s about the kids and their families. So let’s get this done.”