Canada announced on Jan. 4 that it reached a landmark C$40 billion (US$31 billion) agreement-in-principle to reform the child welfare system for First Nations people and compensate those affected by it.
The deal is the largest financial settlement of its kind in Canadian history.
The non-binding agreement sets aside half of the funds for long-term reform of the on-reserve child welfare system deemed discriminatory by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and federal court.
The other half of the funds is for compensation for First Nations children on-reserve and in the northern territory of Yukon who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022.
First Nations children who were delayed or denied of adequate medical care and social services between 1991 and 2017 will also receive compensation.
“No compensation amount can make up for the trauma people have experienced, but these Agreements-in-Principle acknowledge to survivors and their families the harm and pain caused by the discrimination in funding and services,” Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement.
The agreement is a result of nine weeks of intense talks that ended on Dec. 31 between Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, the Chiefs of Ontario, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and the lawyers for several related class action lawsuits.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations of Child and Family Caring Society, noted that the agreement was non-binding that “simply lays out a pathway to a binding agreement.”
“It is only when that binding agreement has been written and signed by the Government of Canada and acted upon with great haste that First Nations children, youth, and families will have a measure of assurance that actionable change is coming,” Blackstock said.
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