The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Canada Monday to pay the estates of children who died in the on-reserve child welfare system which federal lawyers had argued didn’t qualify for compensation.
This also includes the estates of children that died waiting for medical services that should have been covered under Jordan’s Principle.
Canada had argued in part that the estates of children couldn’t face discrimination, so therefore didn’t qualify for compensation.
Monday’s ruling comes after the tribunal first ordered Canada on Sept. 6 to compensate First Nation children who were removed from their homes and put in a purposely underfunded child welfare system between 2006 to present day. It awarded $40,000 each, the maximum the tribunal is allowed.
The tribunal also ordered Canada on Monday to compensate children who went into care prior to Jan. 1, 2006 but remained in care as of that date, which Canada was also opposing.
“This ruling is such good news for First Nations children and families and comes at a time when the world needs to know justice can pierce through the most difficult of times,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society that first filed the human rights complaint in Feb. 2007, along with the Assembly of First Nations.
The tribunal found Canada guilty Jan. 26, 2016 and since then has faced nine non-compliance orders.
“I am so grateful that children in care as of January 1, 2006 who suffered the discrimination and their caregivers will be compensated along with the estates of children and caregivers who died before they could receive the compensation that could have offered small measure of justice for them,” said Blackstock.
Since December Canada and Blackstock, along with the AFN, have been in talks to develop a compensation framework on how Canada would comply with the compensation order.
But federal lawyers argued only children that died after Oct. 24, 2014 were entitled for compensation, which is when final arguments were made at tribunal over the complaint. Canada was opposing compensation for the estates of children prior to that date.
Canada did win one challenge Monday, which will see children receive their compensation at the age of majority of their province or territory, which in this case only includes Yukon.
Breaking GOOD news! The Tribunal has just ruled in favour of First Nations children and caregivers on key issues regarding compensation for Canada's discrimination. Read the order below- reasons to follow. pic.twitter.com/tTHEY5maVd
— Cindy Blackstock (@cblackst) March 16, 2020
Canada has filed several appeals throughout this fight and most recently last fall in Federal Court. It’s judicial order to quash the compensation is still outstanding.
APTN News asked Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller if Canada intends to drop the judicial review but his office didn’t directly address the matter.
“Our focus remains on finding an equitable, fair and comprehensive settlement on compensation that will ensure long-term benefits for those individuals harmed by past government policies and their families, and support community healing,” said spokesperson Vanessa Adams in a statement.
“While we maintain that there are real and substantial issues with the CHRT’s order as written, we engaged with the parties in the spirit of collaboration and openness, and as ordered by the CHRT. Working together, our Government, the First Nations Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations have achieved important progress, and we remain fully committed to moving forward on compensation in a respectful way.”
Blackstock said she hoped the government accepts the tribunal’s ruling.
“I plead with the Government of Canada to not appeal this decision at a time when First Nations children and families and their allies need good news and we are all reminded of the sacredness of life and family,” said Blackstock.
Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle named after Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation who died waiting for medical care while the federal and provincial governments argued over who should pay for it.
The tribunal also ruled in January 2016 Canada was responsible for Jordan’s Principle and needed to properly fund it.