Canadian Tribunal: Indigenous Child Welfare Deal Falls Short

In a decision made public on Tuesday, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) rejected a CAD$40B agreement to compensate Indigenous children who reportedly faced discrimination in the welfare system, citing concerns that the deal doesn't go far enough.

Canadian Tribunal: Indigenous Child Welfare Deal Falls Short
Image credit: Reuters [via TRT World]

Facts

  • In a decision made public on Tuesday, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) rejected a CAD$40B agreement to compensate Indigenous children who reportedly faced discrimination in the welfare system, citing concerns that the deal doesn't go far enough.
  • The CHRT said the deal with the Assembly of First Nations — which set aside CAD$20B for individual compensation and CAD$20B for on-reserve welfare reform — excludes children removed from their homes and placed in non-federally funded placements and the estates of deceased caregivers.
  • The agreement stems from a 2016 CHRT ruling that ordered the government to pay CAD$40k to every affected child, the maximum compensation allowed under the Human Rights Act. PM Trudeau's admin. appealed the ruling in 2019, and the Court of Appeal upheld it in 2021.
  • Census data indicate that, in 2016, Indigenous children represented about 52% of Canada's foster system despite only accounting for 7.7% of the population.
  • Indigenous leaders say the ruling will delay compensation for over 300k children. However, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society — a group that led the effort to reach compensation — said it approves of the decision.
  • According to a government spokesperson, it's unclear whether negotiations will have to start over or if the agreement can simply be amended to satisfy the tribunal.

Sources: Al Jazeera, CBC, Canadian Dimension, and Dnyuz.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by CBC. While, in the short-term, this is a disappointing outcome, it's a necessary one. The subpar agreement negligently excluded a vast number of individuals and is nothing more than a caricature of reconciliation. Rather than accepting this short-changed deal, the CHRT has rightly sent it back.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Le Monde. Under the guise of advocating for First Nations people, the CHRT has deemed the agreement insufficient and delayed much-needed compensation for over 300k Indigenous Canadians who were counting on this settlement — an ironic ruling considering the deal was put together by First Nations people themselves.