Canada Vows To Pay $31.5B To Settle Case Over IP Child Welfare System
The Canadian government announced Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2022, that it had reached what it called the largest settlement in Canada’s history, paying $31.5 billion to fix the nation’s discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the Indigenous people harmed by it, Catherine Porter and Vjosa Isai reported for the New York Times.
Photo Insert: Indigenous youth in Alberta
The agreement in principle forms the basis for a final settlement of several lawsuits brought by First Nations groups against the Canadian government. Of the overall settlement, C$40 billion, half will go toward compensating both children who were unnecessarily removed, and their families and caregivers, over the past three decades.
The rest of the money will go toward repairing the child welfare system for First Nations children — who are statistically far more likely to be removed from their families — over the next five years to ensure families are able to stay together.
“First Nations from across Canada have had to work very hard for this day to provide redress for monumental wrongs against First Nation children, wrongs fueled by an inherently biased system,” said Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, the largest Indigenous organization in Canada.
“This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s in fact about poverty,” she said at a news conference, adding that more than 200,000 children and Indigenous families are affected by the agreement.
The deal is an acknowledgment that the child welfare system was better resourced to remove children than to support them in place. The system was the product of discriminatory policies put in place and enforced over generations against Indigenous communities.
Of those eligible for compensation, experts hired during the litigation have estimated that 115,000 children were separated from their families since 1991, said Robert Kugler, a lawyer who represented First Nations complainants on two different lawsuits, during the news conference.
While less than 8 percent of children under 14 in Canada are Indigenous, they make up more than 52 percent of those in foster care, according to 2016 census data.
The case was first brought to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal back in 2007, by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, a child welfare advocacy group, and the country’s largest Indigenous organization, the Assembly of First Nations.