Canadian court upholds Indigenous children’s compensation order

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A Canadian federal court upheld a human rights tribunal award decision that ordered Ottawa to pay $ 40,000 to First Nations children discriminated against in the welfare system.

In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada deliberately and recklessly discriminated against Indigenous children by knowingly underfunding child and family services on reserves, pushing more indigenous children into foster homes.

In its 2019 follow-up decision, the court ordered the federal government to pay C $ 40,000 ($ 31,500), the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, to each affected First Nations child. .

The court also said that, with few exceptions, the children’s parents or grandparents would also be eligible for compensation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government appealed the ruling at the time, arguing the court overstepped its bounds in ordering compensation that cost the federal government billions of dollars.

Federal Court Judge Paul Favel on Wednesday dismissed the government’s appeal for judicial review of the order, saying the Attorney General of Canada, who filed the request, had “failed to establish that the compensation decision is unreasonable ”.

Favel also encouraged the two sides to continue negotiations, saying: “The parties must decide whether they will continue to sit by the side of the track or move forward in this spirit of reconciliation.

Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, said in a statement that the government is reviewing the latest decision and more information “would be available,” adding that “Canada remains committed to compensating First Nations children who have been removed. of their family and their community ”.

Meanwhile, Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, urged Trudeau to “do the right thing”, saying the decision was “a complete rejection of all the government’s fallacious arguments and a total victory for the children. . “

“Do not appeal these decisions and obey legal orders to stop the discrimination. You owe it to the Survivors and the children who have been lost for not fighting the equality and care of this generation of children, ”Blackstock wrote in a post on his Twitter account.

The Canadian government’s legal battles with Indigenous peoples have come under scrutiny following the discovery of hundreds of anonymous graves at the sites of former residential schools.

Since May, hundreds of anonymous children’s graves have been discovered in former residential schools, intended for indigenous children forcibly separated from their families in what has been called “cultural genocide”.

The victims, mostly children, died of disease, malnutrition, neglect and other causes in schools, where physical and sexual abuse were rife.

The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015 determined that at least 3,200 Indigenous children died while attending residential schools, and that the general practice was “not to send the bodies of deceased students to schools in their home community ”.

Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated more than 150,000 First Nations children from their families between 1831 and 1996.

According to census data, in 2016, over 52% of foster children were Indigenous, while Indigenous children made up only 7.7% of Canada’s foster child population.

In 2008, the Canadian government officially apologized.


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