AFN chiefs unanimously endorse revised child welfare compensation agreement

The Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Manitoba says children and families shortchanged by a chronically underfunded on-reserve child welfare system could start receiving compensation by the end of the year.

“We will take the agreement to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for approval in the spring of 2023, probably within a month if you approve today,” Cindy Woodhouse told the AFN spring assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday morning. “Once (we have) the CHRT agreement, it will then be taken to the Federal Court of Canada for approval in late spring or early this summer.

“Once all of these approvals have been granted the claims process will begin in late 2023 or early 2024 and funds will start to flow shortly there after.”

Immediately after Woodhouse spoke, First Nations leaders unanimously approved a resolution on a revised compensation settlement agreement that adds another $3 billion to the existing $20 billion for a total of $23 billion.

Advocates of the new settlement agreement, such as First Nations Child and Family Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock, say it will ensure another 13,000 children will receive compensation and satisfy the terms of earlier CHRT rulings.

“We feel fairly confident it is with these fixes the tribunal will feel comfortable and will hopefully approve the settlement and then after that the federal court,” Blackstock told assembly delegates.

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AFN, Blackstock announce revised $23B child welfare compensation deal 

AFN Regional Chief for Saskatchewan Bobby Cameron said he is also optimistic the new revised deal will move forward and compensation money can finally begin flowing to children and families.

“We have to be confident we have to be optimistic because there are people waiting right now and we don’t want this to go on for years and years until people have passed away,” he said. “We want them to get it now.”

Chief Don Maracle of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory said he wasn’t surprised the resolution passed unanimously and he fully supports it.

“I expected that the resolution would be fast with the additional $3 billion for the settlement,” he said.

“I was supportive of it because so many children were taken from First Nations communities on reserve because of poverty not abuse.”

A compensation agreement of $20 billion was originally approved by both the federal government and AFN in early 2022.

However, this agreement was sent into limbo last fall when the CHRT said it did not meet the terms of its earlier rulings including that all claimants receive a minimum of $40,000 in compensation.

The federal government and AFN will hold a press conference Wednesday morning to address the new agreement.

Also on Wednesday, the AFN assembly will discuss the government’s new draft agreement on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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