Jan 4, 2022 - World

Canada, First Nations reach deal over discriminatory child welfare system

Photo of Justin Trudeau sitting with flags that say "Every Child Matters" standing behind him

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, on Oct. 18. Photo: Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Canada announced Tuesday that it has reached agreements in principle totaling CA$40 billion ($31.5 billion) to compensate Indigenous children who were forced into foster care and reform the welfare system.

Why it matters: Indigenous communities have said for years that the government's underfunding of First Nations child and family services is discriminatory and causes irreparable harm. The dispute has led to a human rights complaint and several lawsuits.

Catch up quick: In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Indigenous children "suffer adverse impacts" in the welfare system "only because of their race and/or national or ethnic origin."

  • The tribunal ordered the federal government to pay the maximum fine under Canadian law of CA$40,000 ($31,000) for each child removed from their home, the Guardian notes.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced criticism for seeking judicial review of the ruling, per the Washington Post.
  • The government announced last month it would pursue a settlement instead of continuing to appeal.

Details: Per the agreements in principle, announced Tuesday, about half of the money will go toward First Nations children who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991, and March 31, 2022.

  • The other half will be set aside for pursuing long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services program, including funding to support young adults aging out of the system.
  • 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but they make up only 7.7% of the child population, according to Canada's 2016 census.

Worth noting: The agreement comes after hundreds of Indigenous children's remains were found at former residential school sites last year.

What they're saying: "No compensation amount can make up for the trauma people have experienced, but these Agreements-in-Principle acknowledge to survivors and their families the harm and pain caused by the discrimination in funding and services," minister of Indigenous services Patty Hajdu said in a statement.

  • "We are aware that reaching this milestone has been a long time coming for families who were torn apart, and we know that our work is not done," added Marc Miller, the minister of crown–Indigenous relations.
  • "We will continue working with the Parties so that future generations of First Nations children will never face the same injustices — and can thrive, surrounded by their loved ones, languages and cultures."
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