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AFN files $10B class action against federal government over treatment of Indigenous children

Posted in Featured, Talking Politics

Published on February 15, 2020 with No Comments

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government seeking $10 billion in damages for what it says is a policy of under-funding children and family services for Indigenous children living on reserves and in the Yukon.

The suit alleges the federal government “systematically ignored” Jordan’s Principle — which states that Indigenous children on reserves must not be kept waiting for vital social services because governments can’t agree on who should pay for them.

The lawsuit also claims that by under-funding services for Indigenous children, the federal government created an incentive to remove them from their homes and place them in foster care as the “first — not the last — resort.”

“Year after year, generation after generation, Canada systemically discriminated against First Nations children and families simply because they were First Nations,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement.

“It did so by under-funding preventive care, perpetuating the historical disadvantage resulting from the residential schools. Canada breached its responsibility to our children and families, infringed on their charter rights and caused them real harm and suffering. We will always stand up for our children.”

The lawsuit, which has not been certified by a court, also calls for reforms to eliminate discrimination and prejudice from the child welfare system.

“There’s a change within the system that’s required, an ask to fix the system that’s still discriminatory and racist,” Bellegarde shared with media.

In the fall, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 — the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act — to each child taken from their homes and communities through the on-reserve child welfare system from Jan. 1, 2006, to a date to be determined by the tribunal. Some estimates place the number of children that could be affected at about 50,000, with the largest number in the Prairie provinces and British Columbia. The ruling, like the AFN class action, also covers First Nation children in Yukon.

 

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