Federal Court of Canada upholds CHRT ruling to compensate First Nation children

By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – Late last month, the Federal Court of Canada announced their decision to uphold a 2019 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruling regarding Federal compensation for First Nations children who were apprehended under Canada’s First Nations child and family services program.

 The ruling indicates that the Government must pay $40,000 to each child affected by the on-reserve welfare system since 2006.

The parents or grandparents of the children affected are also eligible for compensation — so long as the children were not taken due to abuse.

 A judicial review application filed by the Government, which argued that it was wrong for Canada to pay, was also declined by the Federal court.

Justice Paul Favel said that the Attorney General of Canada, who originally filed the application, had “not succeeded in establishing that the compensation decision is unreasonable.”

 The court also upheld another CHRT ruling ordering Canada to pay $40,000 to each First Nation child forced to leave their homes to access services or were denied services covered by the Jordan’s Principle policy.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said of the Court’s decision, “This is justice in action for First Nations children and families, however, nothing can replace the childhoods and connections to languages, lands and loved ones stolen by Canada’s discrimination.”

“We have repeatedly made a reasonable and fair request that Canada stop fighting our kids in court not only for the sake of truth and reconciliation but also for the healing path forward,” concluded the Chief.

This court ruling signifies the end of an excruciatingly long battle for justice and equality as the issue of Indigenous discrimination was brought forward to the CHRT over a decade ago.

In 2007, the AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint alleging discrimination against First Nations children in Canada’s provision of First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) and Jordan’s Principle.

Nine years later, in 2016, the CHRT found that Canada was in fact discriminating against First Nations children and families in its provisions and funding of the FNCFS Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.

The CHRT then ordered Canada to completely reform its FNCFS Program and fully implement Jordan’s Principle.

However, the final order regarding Canada’s FNCFS program and Jordan’s Principle policy came in 2019 when the CHRT ordered the country to compensate First Nations children and their parents and/or grandparents affected by the discrimination caused by the policies.

After more Judicial reviews and clarifications over the course of a few years, the decision to uphold the compensation order has been approved.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who helped launch the human rights complaint alongside the AFN in 2007, said the ruling was a “complete win.”

“And now the question becomes, will the federal government finally put down its sword and stop fighting First Nations children and treat them equally? It would be the first time in the history of the country if they ended their discrimination in federally funded public services,” she said.

While many have urged the Liberal Government to avoid any more legal action over the rulings, Canada has until Oct. 29 to appeal the decisions.

On Monday, during a trip to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the Government still hasn’t decided whether or not they will appeal.

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