Fate of $20B compensation for First Nations children in hands of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Tens of thousands of First Nations children and carers are waiting for the Canadian Court of Human Rights to determine whether Ottawa’s $20 billion offer to compensate them for discrimination meets the country’s human rights orders. this or not.

The panel reserved its decision on Friday after hearing two days of arguments about and against the historic settlement.

“It’s not even close to the losses we’ve suffered over the years,” said Carolyn Buffalo, a mother from Montana First Nation in Maskwacis, Alta., in an interview with CBC News.

Buffalo has had to fight a bureaucratic battle with Ottawa during the life of her son, 20-year-old Noah Buffalo-Jackson. He has severe cerebral palsy and needs round-the-clock care.

“I had to fight for basic things, like a wheelchair, that other people would get without question,” says Buffalo.

“We didn’t ask for anything more. All we wanted was what the other kids got.”

Buffalo is worried her son will be traded again because the settlement reached between the federal government and the Council of First Nations does not guarantee him the same amount of compensation that the children receive. other will receive.

VIEW | Canadian Court of Human Rights ends hearing on $20 billion settlement:

There are growing calls to renegotiate Ottawa’s landmark $20 billion child welfare deal

Indigenous child rights advocate Cindy Blackstock is among a growing number of activists calling for the Canadian Court of Human Rights to renegotiate Ottawa’s $20 billion First Nations child welfare agreement. Critics argue that too many people are included in the compensation package, which could expose some victims to discrimination for less than they deserve.

In 2019, the court ordered Canada to pay the maximum penalty under the Canadian Human Rights Act: $40,000 for each First Nations child and caregiver denied essential services – under a policy known as the Jordan Principles – such as the Buffalo family.

It also requires the government to pay $40,000 for each child affected by the reserve foster care system and their parents or grandparents, as long as the children are not in care because of abuse.

Instead of paying reparations the way the orders were communicated, the government negotiated an agreement with the Council of First Nations, sue Ottawa for $10 billion in restitution for a group of children and families not covered by a court order.

The settlement they finalized in July is the largest in Canadian history. It covers children and families who suffered discrimination from 1991 onward – 15 years longer than the court order.

“We were able to take a right decision and expand it,” Stuart Wuttke, general counsel of the Council of First Nations, said during Thursday’s hearing.

“A large number of children will get more and more compensation than this court ordered.”

Worry compensation pack will be too thin

But the First Nations Child and Family Care Association argued that the agreement diluted the court’s human rights ruling.

“There has to be another way,” Sarah Clarke, an attorney representing the Caring Association, said during Friday’s hearing.

“We can’t go this far and recognize the right of so many people just to have an outside process decide how this ends.”

The Care Association and AFN filed a human rights complaint against Ottawa in 2007 for underfunding its backup child welfare system.

In a statement to CBC News, Minister for Indigenous and Indigenous Affairs Marc Miller, and Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said they remain committed to ensuring children and families are compensated in a fair manner. justice for past harm. (Justin Tang / Canadian Press)

In 2016, Court finds Ottawa discriminates against children of first countries and said Canada’s action resulted in “the highest level of injury and harm” and issued a claim order in 2019.

The settlement guarantees at least $40,000 for each child on the First Nations reserve who is forced out of their homes, depending on the severity of the harm they’ve experienced. via.

But it can’t make the same promise to other families, like the Buffalos, who might get less.

“The $20 billion figure seems like a lot,” Buffalo said. “But it’s really not because the class is so crowded.”

Seeking an apology from the prime minister

Along with more compensation, Buffalo said she wants the Prime Minister to apologize for all the loss her family and others have suffered.

“I want the prime minister to look Noah in the eye and say to him, ‘I’m sorry,'” Buffalo said.

“No one has ever apologized to us.”

A memorial is on display on Parliament Hill, as ceremonies take place for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on September 30, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Thailand’s Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller declined interviews with CBC News.

But in a statement, it said the compensation structure was designed by Indigenous partners and “reflects their experience with other compensation schemes.”

“We remain committed to ensuring children and families are fairly compensated for past harm,” the statement said.

Buffalo said she is not backing down and will continue to fight for her son, who she calls joy in her family’s life.

“Noah is worth everything,” Buffalo said.

“We just feel really lucky that he chose us as parents and I just hope we’re good enough for him because he’s so special.”

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