AFN’s Federal Class Action Lawsuit Will Fight for Justice for Victims of First Nations Child Welfare System

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

(Ottawa, ON) – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has filed a federal class action lawsuit to seek damages and justice for the thousands of First Nations children and families that have been discriminated against by Canada’s child welfare system that incentivized the removal of First Nation children from their families and Nations.

“Year after year, generation after generation, Canada systemically discriminated against First Nations children and families simply because they were First Nations,”

said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “It did so by underfunding preventive care, perpetuating the historical disadvantage resulting from the residential schools. Canada breached its responsibility to our children and families, infringed on their Charter rights, and caused them real harm and suffering. We will always stand up for our children.”

The class action lawsuit filed by the AFN asserts, among other things, that Canada’s funding was discriminatory because the federal system created a perverse incentive to remove First Nations children from their families and Nations and put them in out-of-home care; it failed to account for different needs among First Nations in different locations; and funding for First Nations children on-reserve in the child welfare system is significantly less than children in the child welfare system off-reserve.

Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart holds the child welfare portfolio within the AFN and said that the AFN has the experience and expertise in the area of First Nations child welfare, including its years of work at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on this issue, and is best placed to fight for a fair and just outcome for First Nations children and families.

“This AFN class action builds on our work and evidence at the Canadian Human Right Tribunal and challenges the federal government’s systemic discriminatory approach to child and family services and the denial of services to our children under Jordan’s Principle.

“The AFN class action is seeking compensation for all those harmed by the system, including those not covered in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s decision,” Regional Chief Kevin Hart said.

In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found that the Government of Canada was systemically discriminating against First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon in its implementation of child and family services. On September 6, 2019 the CHRT ordered Canada to pay $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children and their families where a wrongful apprehension occurred or where there was a denial of services due to Canada’s lack of implementation of Jordan’s Principle. The work to implement the Tribunal’s ruling on compensation and child welfare reform will continue as a separate track from the class action.

 

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