Cindy Blackstock asks Human Rights Tribunal to reject $20B child welfare compensation deal

An Indigenous children’s rights advocate whose 15-year battle with Ottawa led to a historic $40 billion settlement over discrimination in the foster care system First Nations – is asking the Canadian Court of Human Rights to return the settlement agreement.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Care Association, said the agreement negotiated between the federal government and the First Nations Council did not meet the standard of compensation set by the court. make a judgment based on the agreement.

“It denied or provided lower compensation for some victims who experienced a worst-case discriminatory situation and created significant uncertainty for other victims,” ​​Blackstock said. written in an affidavit sent to the court on August 30.

The deal sets aside $20 billion for compensation and $20 billion for long-term reforms.

The court will hold two days of virtual hearings on Thursday and Friday to decide whether the $20 billion package meets Canada’s request to compensate First Nations children and their families for discrimination. before the matter is referred to Federal Court for final approval.

In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a policy called Jordan River Anderson, the Jordan Principles, to ensure that First Nation children receive essential services, such as healthcare, before legal disputes over payments are resolved. (Submitted by TIFF)

Blackstock told CBC News the Caring Society, which was not part of the AFN and Ottawa compensation negotiations, admitted $20 billion is a lot of money.

But because the amount is fixed, it is not guaranteed that every claimant will receive a minimum of $40,000, according to the court order.

This undermines the human rights order, Blackstock said.

“My concern is that the prime minister says no one has the right [$40,000] will get less and that’s not the case,” she told CBC News.

“It makes me feel frustrated.”

Legacy left by deceased parents

In a joint statement, the office of Indigenous Services Secretary Patty Hajdu and Indigenous Relations UK Secretary Marc Miller said every First Nations child is forced out of their home and placed in the child welfare system. Preventive children will receive a minimum of $40,000 – or more, depending on the severity of the harm they’ve experienced.

However, the details of the deal are still being worked out, the statement said.

“While no amount of compensation can ever compensate for the pain and hurt that the Government of Canada’s actions have caused to First Nations children and families, this final settlement is a It is an important step forward in acknowledging the damage that has been done and an important step forward in healing,” the statement said.

Jeremy Meawasige sits with his mother Maurina Beadle at their Pictou Landing First Nation home in Nova Scotia in July 2011. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

The settlement leaves the estate of Jordan River Anderson’s mother, Virginia Ballantyne, whose son died in 2005 at the age of 5 in a bureaucratic battle between Manitoba and Ottawa over who should pay for his care.

That’s because it cuts off the deceased parent’s estate before filing a claim.

Blackstock said: “It was really heartbreaking because the family was so generous and Jordan’s mother passed away about six months after Jordan did.

“It’s sad to see her abandoned and people like her… That seems to me like an image injustice.”

Estate of the late Maurina Beadle – a mother from the Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia who won a lawsuit against Ottawa to get her son Jeremy Meawasige treated Jordan’s Principles – will also not receive the money.

However, Meawasige and Anderson’s estate will be compensated.

$40K Unsecured Per Plaintiff

In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a policy called Anderson – Jordan Principles – to ensure that First Nation children receive essential services, such as health care, before the Disputes over jurisdiction over payments are resolved.

The court ordered Canada to pay $40,000 to each First Nations child – along with their parents or grandparents – who were forced out of their homes to access services or denied services under the law. Jordanian principles.

But since it’s unclear how many claimants Jordan’s Principles will come up with, the deal cannot guarantee $40,000 for all of those in this class, according to an analysis included as an exhibit along the way. with the Blackstock affidavit.

This agreement creates a compromise for the parents of the removed children. In situations where more than one child is removed, they will receive a maximum of $60,000 – not $40,000 per child, as the court ordered.

It also excludes a category of children excluded from compensation – those placed with family arrangements, Blackstock said.

Council of First Nations in Manitoba, Cindy Woodhouse, left, and Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu, center, listen to Thailand’s Minister of Indigenous Relations Marc Miller during a news conference in Ottawa , where the federal government shared details of a $40 billion deal for first states child welfare. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Under the agreement, claimants have until February 2023 to choose not to receive compensation and file a lawsuit themselves. Otherwise, they will not be able to take legal action on their own.

Timmins Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus is calling on the government to renegotiate the deal so that everyone gets the full amount of compensation the court ordered.

“They don’t respect the human rights court’s ruling,” Angus said. “You cannot ignore the law and legal decisions that go against you.”

In a statement to CBC News, AFN defended the deal.

“AFN is working hard to ensure that the process is in place so that all eligible victims are compensated as quickly as possible,” said Cindy Woodhouse, Manitoba Area Chief.

“We will be with the First Nations throughout this process.”

Ottawa refuses to appeal – if the deal is approved

In January 2022, AFN and the federal government announced a $40 billion settlement to cover the cost of the Canadian Court of Human Rights order settlement, two class action lawsuits and long-term reform of the Indigenous child welfare system over a five-year period.

The settlement comes after an intense legal battle that began in 2007 when Blackstock filed a human rights complaint with the Council of First Nations against Canada.

In 2016, the court found Ottawa Discrimination Against Children of First Nations and said Canada’s action resulted in “the highest degree of injury and harm, causing pain and suffering.”

In 2019, it ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 – the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act – for each child affected by the backup child welfare system, along with their primary guardian, as long as the child is not admitted to the facility foster care for abuse.

NDP MP Charlie Angus is urging the federal government to renegotiate a $20 billion compensation package. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

It also directs the government to pay the same amount if it violates the Jordan Principles.

Ottawa has appealed the Federal Court’s decision that maintain that order.

Now, Hajdu and Miller’s offices say the government will refuse to appeal – if the deal is approved.

“Canada will not continue to pursue an appeal (the Federal Court’s decision on restitution by the Canadian Court of Human Rights) after the CHRT declares that its order for restitution has been satisfied and the Federal Court state approved the final settlement,” the statement said.

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