Negotiations between FB, First Nations on child compensation underway

TORONTO – Cindy Blackstock, one of the plaintiffs involved in negotiations between First Nations and the federal government on compensation for native children who were removed from their homes, says there was little progress after the first day of negotiations.

Blackstock, executive director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday that the negotiations “are just a process at this point” and she doubts both parties will come to a solution.

“What people really need to know is that we are very disappointed that the federal government is continuing this lawsuit, even by filing this appeal, and that we are here for a very short period of time because we want discrimination. from the federal side. government to stop, “Blackstock said.

“We want this to be the last generation of First Nations children who are actually directly hurt by the government,” she added.

The federal government on Friday appealed a federal court decision to uphold a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruling ordering Ottawa to compensate First Nations children, but said it would work with indigenous groups, including First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, to solve the problem. the dispute out of court.

In the appeal, the government claimed that the federal court erred in finding that the CHRT acted “reasonably” by ordering full compensation to children, their parents or grandparents for having been unnecessarily removed from their communities since 2006.

The appeal is active, but the government says it will suspend the trial for two months.

Ottawa and indigenous groups on the other side of the trial began negotiations Monday with the goal of reaching a settlement by December.

The two sides will look to agree: to provide “fair, equitable compensation” to First Nations children in the reserve and in the Yukon, who were removed from their homes by child and family services; achieving “long-term reform” of the First Nations and Family Service program; and to provide financing for the “purchase and / or construction of capital assets” that support the provision of child and family services.

If the negotiations do not end with a solution after two months, the appeal will continue in an expedited manner.

CTV’s Your Morning and CTVNews.ca contacted the Crown Minister of Relations and Natives, Marc Miller, for comment on how Ottawa felt the first day of negotiations went, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday announcing the start of a negotiation period, Miller said the appeal was made because the government is concerned about introducing a “one-size-fits-all approach”, but noted that Ottawa remains committed to reaching a solution.

Miller noted that there is “work to be done outside the courts”, including long-term reforms and self-determination discussions.

“We have said from the outset that we want to compensate these children. This is a broad and comprehensive decision by the Canadian Court of Human Rights, and we have said it before, [we have] certain jurisdictional issues with it. That should not stop us from moving forward with a global decision, “he said.

In 2016, the Canadian Court of Human Rights found that Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by deliberately underfunding child and family services for those living in reserve. Disputes in the case, which was first brought up in 2007, say this led to thousands of children being apprehended from their families and endured abuse in the provinces’ care systems.

The court ordered Ottawa to pay $ 40,000, the maximum that the court can award, to each child as well as their parents and grandparents.

In 2019, the federal government asked the federal court to dismiss the tribunal’s rulings, but the court upheld the orders last month. Friday was the last day for the government to lodge a complaint.

The damages that native children have faced are “irreversible,” Blackstock said, and although “nothing is going to compensate them for their lost childhood,” she says $ 40,000 “would do some degree of justice.”

“We still see families being separated unnecessarily because of inequalities that continue to happen in child and family services. We also see children being denied services that they should receive and being hurt by it,” she said.

Blackstock said the groups want to see Ottawa “accept responsibility” for its treatment of native children in the child welfare system and commit to stopping inequalities that First Nations continues to face, including access to clean drinking water, high-quality and safe housing schooling.

Blackstock said indigenous leaders work with the federal government but are prepared to walk off the table if they feel negotiations are stalling.

“I would like to be able to get an agreement for these children to stop the discrimination, but if that does not happen or we get the feeling that it’s just spinning around, we’ll be from there and back in court, said Blackstock.

Blackstock says indigenous groups want to see changes from the federal government “at the child level,” adding that messages and “fluffy statements” do not do much in terms of help.

“What we need to see is that discrimination must stop for children and families, and that we never have to have a generation of children who have to recover from childhood because of what the Government of Canada did,” she said.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Sarah Turnbull and The Canadian Press

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