Discussions on compensation for indigenous children’s welfare are underway while Ottawa seeks to settle

Indigenous people march next to Parliament Hill during the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on September 30, 2021.Lars Hagberg / The Canadian Press

Confidential conversations have been initiated about compensation for native children who are unnecessarily taken into the child welfare service, with the aim of reaching an out-of-court settlement worth billions before the end of the year.

The parties are likely to be extremely tight-lipped during the talks so that the negotiations are not affected by public comments, the government has said. Ottawa made it clear that it is willing to put a significant amount on the table, even though it said it cannot specify how much. Minister for Crown Relations and Natives Marc Miller confirmed on Friday that it would cost billions to solve the problem.

The hearings were announced Friday after the federal government filed a “protective appeal” in the federal appeals court to declare that it believed a judge erred in its September decision, which upheld two rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). . Ottawa filed the appeal notice focusing on one of these orders for financial compensation for native children and their families.

The federal government’s decision to appeal met sharp setbacks from opposition parties and lawyers. Ottawa said that despite the appeal, any lawsuit will be put on hold for the time being and the focus will be on reaching agreement.

Adrienne Vaupshas, ​​a spokeswoman for Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu, said on Monday that discussions between the government and the parties will continue and “will continue until the end of the year, or until we reach a global resolution on outstanding issues that have been subject to legal proceedings. ” The content of the conversations remains confidential, she added.

Announced changes to two ministerial portfolios focused on native issues

The re-elected Trudeau government has been widely criticized for continuing the legal battle over the welfare of indigenous children, despite having said that its main relationship is with indigenous peoples. Experts have also said that children who were unnecessarily taken from their homes and families deserve to be compensated for the discrimination immediately.

Bobby Cameron, Saskatchewan’s regional head of the Assembly of First Nations and head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said Monday that filing an appeal was the “wrong decision to make.”

He said it “goes completely against everything we have worked towards” to improve the quality of life for First Nations children. Mr. Cameron called on the Trudeau government to hear directly from the families affected in every region of the country.

On the eve of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Federal Court Paul Favel found that the CHRT had reasonably exercised its discretion under Canadian human rights law to deal with a “complex case of discrimination to ensure that all issues were adequately addressed, and that the issue of compensation was addressed in phases. “

The decision also said that the court correctly considered the case to determine whether compensation should be awarded for intentional and reckless conduct. The CHRT order required Ottawa to provide up to $ 40,000 in compensation to each First Nations child unnecessarily taken into foster care as a result of underfunded public services since 2006. It also requires payments to parents or grandparents.

Cindy Blackstock, CEO of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told The Globe and Mails podcast Decibels that initial discussions took place on Monday. She also said she’s been a part of “talking circles” before, and “they haven’t really gotten us very far.”

“I think this is worth one last kick for the kids,” Ms. Blackstock. “And so it is for me. I am done. For the only real progress we have seen so far has been through trials. But in justice to the children, if we can reach agreement, it will bring justice faster. So that’s why I’m going in there.

Ms. Blackstock also said she has also made it clear that the orders from the CHRT must stand.

“This money is not mine,” she said. “It belongs to the victims.”

Justice Minister David Lametti said Friday that Ottawa believes it can reach a solution that is comprehensive and not only includes what the CHRT was trying to do, but also touches on separate class actions focusing on the welfare of native children.

“We have the good will of the parties. We have put a significant amount on the table to get the parties to the table, and we are sure that this can happen. ”

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