Treaty 8 chiefs suing Alberta, Canada over stolen children’s special allowance benefit

Treaty 8 First Nations chiefs in Alberta are suing Canada and the province over the children’s special allowance benefit payments saying the money never made it to the children who needed it.

Chiefs say the money from the benefit is transferred from the federal government to the province but never reaches or is spent on First Nations children living off reserve, who are in care of the province.

“Alberta Children’s Services legislation has the same effects as the residential schools. Our children and families are broken. We as First Nations need to develop our child well-being laws, and bring our children home,” said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey at a news conference in Edmonton on Monday.

According to the federal government website, Canada pays between $520 and $620 per month for each child in the care of the province who lives off reserve.

The chiefs say this money has been put into Alberta’s general revenues stream and not towards the children.

Manitoba lost a similar case in 2022.

“In this case, the denial has impacted Indigenous children in care, disabled children in care, and they are at a disadvantage,” said Chief Ivan Sawan of Loon River First Nation. “The court in Manitoba was clear, that it does not matter if the government may not have intended discrimination against our children. What matters is that the result of the policy, children in care did not have access to the CSA benefit to pay their expenditures that may assist at risk youth with homelessness and lack of clothing.”

Lawyers for Treaty 8 said the money was stolen from children in care who desperately needed it.

According to the statement of claim, the money hasn’t been used to help children in Alberta since 1993. The suit said the federal government paid $33 million into the program in 2022.

“We call on Alberta and Canada to do the right thing here – return the money,” said lawyer Harold Cochrane. “Theft is illegal in this country, and no one is above the law, including the province of Alberta.”

Noskey said paying what is owed will be a step towards reconciliation.

“There is a whole bunch of hot air out there about reconciliation – well this is how you fix stuff,” said Noskey. “Until we have a government that is in place, not looking at the flaws of the previous government, but looking to make amends to the First Nations people, I think then we will gain some leeway into the word reconciliation.”

The class action still needs to be certified by a judge.

The Alberta Government declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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