In a decision delivered Friday, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child who was in child and family services care on reserve at any point from Jan.1, 2006, to a date to be determined by the tribunal.
After a ruling Friday from Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal focused on children in care on reserves, one Manitoba grand chief has a message for the federal government — pay up and get to work on making the system better.
In a decision delivered Friday, the tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child who was in child and family services care on reserve at any point from Jan. 1, 2006, to a date to be determined by the tribunal. That amount is the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The order also includes payments to some of their parents and grandparents of those children.
The decision is based on a landmark January 2016 tribunal ruling which found the government discriminated against First Nations children by under-funding on-reserve child welfare services.
No amount of money could compensate for the lost time and social dysfunction that has been caused by CFS, says Jerry Daniels, grand chief of Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs’ Organization.
But fighting the order in court or delaying a way to start payments should not be an option the federal government considers, he said.
“They should honour it and I think they need to shift policy right now. They need to tell their bureaucrats to get out of the way. They need to transfer control [of CFS systems and funding] to First Nations,” Daniels told CBC News.
Daniels says there are currently approximately 4,500 children in care within the communities the Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents.
If Ottawa were to compensate just those people, it would mean around $180 million, he says — but the payments would extend back years, applying to people who were in care and to family members as well.
“They have been under-funding child welfare for decades now. Now, they are getting the consequences of that,” Daniels said.
“But the consequences are more than that. The consequences are family dysfunction, lack of supports.”
Daniels’s sentiments were echoed in a statement from the grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents northern First Nations.
“For far too long, Canada has failed to act in the best interests of First Nations children and families,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “I hope the federal government will comply with this ruling. Our children deserve respect.”
The tribunal ordered Ottawa to enter discussions with the First Nations Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations — which together filed the initial human rights complaint in 2007 — to determine the best independent process to distribute the compensation.
The tribunal gave the parties until Dec. 10 to come back with proposals.
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said in statement that Ottawa would review the tribunal’s order.