A Federal Court judge has verbally approved a landmark $23-billion settlement that will see Ottawa compensate more than 300,000 First Nations children and their families over chronic underfunding of on-reserve child-welfare services.
The Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society first launched a human rights complaint in 2007.
In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal called the federal government’s treatment of First Nations child welfare “willful and reckless.”
It found First Nations are adversely impacted by the services provided by the government and, in some cases, denied services as a result of the government’s involvement.
Ottawa had offered to spend $20 billion to reform the child-welfare system and another $20 billion on compensation last year, but the tribunal raised concerns that not all eligible claimants would receive compensation.
Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu says she’s happy the settlement has been approved, and she hopes there will be peace for the litigants.
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Hajdu said before the ruling that the distribution of cheques out of the settlement “will be designed by Indigenous people for Indigenous people,” and therefore could not say when beneficiaries will see that money.
“I know (the partners I met with yesterday) are very eager to have a process that’s fair, that’s trauma-informed, and that’s as rapid as possible,” she told reporters in Ottawa Tuesday.
Asked if she agrees with calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to apologize on behalf of the federal government for its involvement, Hajdu said she’s communicated the requests to him directly.
“Canada definitely owes a debt of apology, and of course the prime minister is the lead of the country so he’ll be considering that request very closely,” she said.
—With files from Global News
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