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Ottawa Reached $40B Agreement Related to First Nations Child Welfare

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Ottawa/Fraser Valley (with files from CBC/AFN) – The federal government has reached a $40-billion agreement in principle related to First Nations child welfare, with half the money earmarked to compensate adults who went through the system as children and the other half directed toward reform.

The agreement still needs a sign-off from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and Federal Court.

The non-binding agreement sets aside $20 billion for compensation and $20 billion for long-term reform of the on-reserve child welfare system.

If approved, the financial settlement would be the largest of its kind in Canadian history. The parties have until March 31 to finalize the agreement.

Compensation will be made available to First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022.

AFN, Assembly of First Nations released a detailed summary and response on their website:

SUMMARY: 

  • On December 31, 2021, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Government of Canada and other parties signed two Agreements-in-Principle (AIPs) outlining a framework toward reaching a global settlement to end discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and Jordan’s Principle.
  • The total settlement package is valued at $40 billion. This includes a total of $20 billion that will be made available to compensate First Nations children and families impacted by the federal government’s discriminatory funding practices and $19.807 billion for fundamental reform to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle to ensure the discriminatory aspects of these programs and that such discrimination does not recur in the future.
  • The AIPs will be made available to Chiefs and First Nations in coming days on a settlement privileged (confidential) basis.
  • Over the next few months, the AFN, the Government of Canada and others will work toward a full compensation package in a final settlement agreement. The final settlement agreement will contain provisions on eligibility for compensation and the application process.
  • Work toward long-term reform will include AFN-facilitated engagement sessions with regions. Engagement with First Nations will guide our negotiations with the federal government to ensure the reformed program is relevant and responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families across the country.
  • Once a final settlement agreement is completed on long-term reform, it will be shared with AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly for discussion and decision, by the Annual General Assembly in July 2022.

The AFN is sharing with First Nations details on two Agreements-in-Principle (AIPs) on compensation and reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and Jordan’s Principle in a total global settlement package valued at $40 billion. On December 31, 2021, the AFN, the Government of Canada and other parties signed one AIP on compensation and one AIP on reform aimed at ending discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and Jordan’s Principle.

The compensation AIP proposes a settlement of $20 billion in compensation to First Nations children and families impacted by discrimination through the FNCFS Program and the improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle. The compensation acknowledges that too many First Nations children were unnecessarily apprehended from their parents and communities and suffered harms that include abuse, the loss of language, culture and attachment to their families. In addition, compensation will be made available to certain individuals who were subjected to a delay, denial or disruption of services, supports, treatment and products as a result of the federal government’s narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.

The long-term reform AIP outlines a framework to correct the many discriminatory aspects of the FNCFS program and Jordan’s Principle. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the current program contains a perverse incentive for child welfare agencies to apprehend children. Specifically, a child welfare agency would not be reimbursed for expenses incurred to provide services, unless the child was removed from their home and placed into state care. The federal government’s narrow implementation of Jordan’s Principle resulted in First Nation children being denied medical and other services which, in some cases, forced parents to place their children into care. The AIP on long-term reform will result in the elimination of these structural problems.

The Government of Canada has committed $19.807 billion to overhaul the current FNCFS Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle. Reforms to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle will require a complete overhaul of how child protection and least-disruptive measures are delivered in First Nations. The AFN will hold a number of engagement sessions in the coming year with First Nations to discuss the suite of reforms required. These sessions will guide our negotiations with the federal government to ensure the reformed program is relevant and responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families across Canada.

The two AIPs will be made available to Chiefs and First Nations in coming days.

Over the next few months, the AFN, the Government of Canada and others will work towards a full compensation package in a final settlement agreement. The final settlement agreement will contain provisions on eligibility for compensation and the application process. The AFN and the Government of Canada will seek the approval of the Federal Court of Canada before compensation can be released. The AFN will provide information to First Nations on this process over the next few months.  The AFN will not have a role in the claims and payment process – it will be an independent third party.

Details of the distribution of the compensation will be determined in the Final Settlement Agreement, with the input of the AFN.

Once a final settlement agreement on long-term reform is completed, it will be shared with AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly for review and approval, likely by the Annual General Assembly in July 2022.

The AFN acknowledges there will be many questions from First Nations regarding the process for compensation. These details will be provided in the coming months and will be included in the Final Settlement Agreement. The AFN has established an information desk to assist individuals who may have questions on the compensation and long-term reform packages.

For more information please contact fnchildcompensation@afn.ca.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to anyone in need of immediate mental health support. Call toll-free at 1-855-242-3310.

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