Canada doesn’t believe the parents of First Nations children that died in the on-reserve child welfare system should be compensated through Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
That’s what a lawyer for the Justice department filed at the tribunal last Friday as all parties submitted their proposals on how these children should be compensated for being taken from their home and put in a purposely underfunded program.
“Generally speaking, the estate of an individual is not a legal entity capable of experiencing discrimination,” wrote Robert Frater in a letter to the tribunal.
Cindy Blackstock, along with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), filed their human rights complaint 13 years ago and won Jan. 26, 2016 when the tribunal found Canada guilty. Since then nine non-compliance orders have been issued by the tribunal to force Canada to end the discrimination.
Then last September the tribunal ordered Canada to pay each child $40,000 in damages between Jan. 2006 to present day.
Since then Canada has tried to get the order dismissed by appealing to the Federal Court for a judicial review and is still seeking that ruling while in discussions with Blackstock and the AFN since December on how the compensation should work.
“While they are working on the process, and there has been some progress, Canada is continuing its efforts to quash all financial compensation,” Blackstock said on Nation to Nation that airs Thursday.
Blackstock and the AFN also believe the parents of children that died in care should be compensated. It’s not clear when the tribunal will make a decision.
“It breaks my heart,” she said of Canada saying otherwise. “I think of youth like Tina Fontaine who died waiting [and] and Jolynn Winter from Wapekeka [First Nation] whose life was lost to suicide.”
Fontaine’s death was ruled a homicide after body was pulled from a Winnipeg river in 2015. The 15-year-old was in care and placed in a downtown hotel when she disappeared. Her homicide is unsolved.
Winter, 12, was living in a Sioux Lookout foster home when she was returned to her home community in northern Ontario for the first time in her life after a serious suicide attempt. A few weeks later she killed herself.
An APTN investigation found in September that the federal government underfunded three on-reserve child welfare agencies by approximately $400 million between 2013 and 2017 compared to off-reserve agencies.
During that time, 72 First Nations children died in that region. Across Ontario, 102 died.
And in the two years it took for the Trudeau government to respond to tribunal orders to increase funding to these agencies, 48 First Nations children died in Ontario connected to child welfare.
Frater argued in his letter that these families may be able to seek damages in other legal proceedings, including one of two pending class-action lawsuits currently before the courts.
“This does not necessarily mean that the estates of other deceased individuals may not be compensated outside of Tribunal proceedings,” he wrote. “Two potential class actions have emerged. The issue of who should be compensated under either of those actions should be negotiated between the parties, as it was in previous class action settlements for Indian Residential Schools and the ‘Sixties Scoop’”.
Catch all of Blackstock’s interview on below.
As well our political panel breaks down all the Wet’suewet’en solidarity demonstrations.
NDP MP Leah Gazan said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has failed the country by flip-flopping on his call for patience only to say in a matter of days last week Canadians were losing their patience with all the demonstrations.
Trudeau then said all the protests and blockades needed to end. He stopped short of saying police needed to act but that’s what happened.
In several ways it made matters worse.
“We know that this would just escalate the situation. That’s exactly what we’re seeing right now and I think that it shows a real failure of the current prime minister,” said Gazan.
But Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree said his boss has show courage in the all attacks from opposition.
“Frankly, I think our prime minister has shown a great deal of leadership, a great deal of resolve,” he said.