Health

Canada reaches agreements to compensate indigenous children over discriminatory system

The
agreements include C$20 billion for potentially hundreds of thousands of First
Nations children who were removed from their families, who did not get services
or who experienced delays in receiving services. Another C$20 billion is to
reform the system over the next five years.

The
government said last month it was setting aside C$40 billion for compensation
and reform but announced the details on Tuesday. The agreements come almost 15
years after the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society brought forward a
human rights complaint.

The reform
deal includes C$2,500 in preventive care per child and provisions for children
in foster care to receive support beyond age 18.

Funding
aimed at reform and preventive services should start flowing in April but these
agreements are not yet final and they may not end the legal battle, said Cindy
Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring
Society.

“I see
it as words on paper,” she told Reuters.

“I
judge victory when I can walk into a community and a child is able to say to
me, ‘My life is better than it was yesterday.’ Nothing in these words actually
changes children’s lives until it’s implemented.”

Indigenous
children are over-represented in foster care across Canada.

Canada’s
Human Rights Tribunal repeatedly found child and family services discriminated
against First Nations children, in part by under-funding services on reserves
so children were removed from their homes and taken off-reserve to get those
services.

Canada
admitted its systems were discriminatory but repeatedly fought orders for it to
pay compensation and fund reforms, including in a federal court case it lost
last year and sought to appeal, and an attempt it announced last summer to
overturn another tribunal decision ordering funding of capital assets and
preventive services.

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