Manitoba chief stands behind comments about Cindy Blackstock

Cornell McLean

Cornell McLean is standing behind his comments about Cindy Blackstock, a First Nations child advocate, who asked the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) to quash a multi-billion dollar deal to compensate First Nations children who are victims of the child welfare system.

“When we speak about every child matters, in Cindy Blackstock’s eyes, no child matters,” said McLean, the former acting grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

“It seems that they’re listening to whatever she has to say in terms of how this compensation moves forward.”

McLean made the comments at a news conference in Winnipeg after the CHRT released its ruling Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed to hear it but my focus is on the children,” Blackstock told APTN National News host Dennis Ward about the comments. “The key thing for everyone to remember is that it’s Canada that owes the compensation to these victims.

“It’s in our interest to make sure every victim gets compensated.”

On July 4, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) signed a $40-billion deal that would see $20 billion go to compensating victims of the government’s discriminatory child welfare system and the other $20 billion to reforming the system as ordered by the CHRT.

The deal had to be approved by the tribunal that issued a compensation order in 2019 stating every child and some extended family will receive at least $40,000 in compensation for discrimination that was “willful and reckless.”

But the FSA or Final Settlement Agreement, reached by Canada and the AFN, would not pay compensation to all victims. Children and their families who were sent to non-federally funded placements or their families, would not receive the $40,000.

That’s one of the main reasons Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in Ottawa, said the deal needed to be put on hold.

“We call on Canada to adopt the Tribunal’s ruling and take up its clear suggestions to fix the FSA to ensure all victims get the human rights compensation and supports they are legally entitled to as soon as possible,” she said after the tribunal put the deal on hold.

“We are ready to assist Canada and the class-action parties in doing so.”

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

But the AFN and McLean saw Blackstock as the reason the deal was put on hold.

On Wednesday, APTN News asked McLean if he still feels the same way about Blackstock.

“I guess what the thing is, what’s her motivation behind it?” McLean told APTN. “Is she looking for a bigger compensation deal for the First Nations kids?

“The kids have been waiting, the young adults and families have been waiting, for the last year since this agreement has been worked on and it’s been announced, and they want to get their hands on some kind of dollars.”

The tribunal said it would release its full ruling on the compensation deal in the coming days.

The FSA came about after Canada agreed to consolidate and pay out two class-action lawsuits. It saw this as a way to satisfy the tribunal’s orders and the plaintiffs in the case.

On Dec. 31, 2021, it announced the massive agreement.

According to the government, it will continue to work with the parties involved in the tribunal case that is now into year 15.

Blackstock is a plaintiff in the case but is not part of the negotiating team.

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