Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today’s ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) is a major victory for fairness and justice that must be respected by Canada. The decision secures compensation for First Nations children unnecessarily apprehended and those denied essential services.
“The AFN will always stand up and fight for First Nations children and families. This ruling is another important victory,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This is about our children, their safety, their right to be with their families, kin and communities and their right to quality of care. No government should be fighting these fundamental values. We have to work together to give life to this ruling, just as we worked together to secure First Nations control over child welfare with the passing of Bill C-92 in the last session of Parliament. This is about forging a brighter future for First Nations children, and that’s good for all Canadians.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision follows a hearing on April 25 and 26, 2019. The CHRT agreed with the AFN’s submissions and has ordered Canada to provide compensation of up to $40,000 to:
- all First Nation children who were unnecessarily apprehended on or after January 1, 2006
- all parents or grandparents of children unnecessarily apprehended on or after January 1, 2006
- all children denied an essential service (Jordan’s Principle) between December 12, 2007 and November 2, 2017
It is estimated that approximately 54,000 children could benefit from this ruling. Individuals can opt out of the compensation scheme, and a process is to be established to provide compensation for minors upon reaching the age of majority. The CHRT has ordered Canada to begin discussions with the AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, partners in the joint complaint at the CHRT, to establish an independent process for distributing compensation to the children and parents or grandparents covered by this decision.
AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who oversees the Child Welfare portfolio for AFN, said Canada’s response to the ruling will indicate whether or not there is commitment to reconciliation and justice for First Nations children and families: “We are urging Canada not to seek a judicial review of this ruling, and to work with us to implement it. The CHRT has issued seven compliance orders against Canada since its original ruling in January 2016. It is time for Canada to stop obstructing fairness and justice for First Nation children and provide them the care and opportunity they deserve. Today is a good day for First Nations children and we will continue to protect and stand up for them.”
Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, affirms First Nations jurisdiction over First Nations child welfare and creates space for First Nations laws and practices regarding their families. Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle ensuring First Nations children get necessary services when they need them, and that these services are not denied because of jurisdictional disputes. It is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.