Lot of $20 Billion Compensation for First Nations Children in Hands of Canadian Human Rights Tribunal | TBEN News

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Tens of thousands of First Nations children and caregivers await the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to determine whether Ottawa’s $20 billion offer to compensate them for discrimination meets human rights orders.

The panel reserved its decision on Friday after hearing arguments for and against the landmark settlement agreement over two days.

“It’s not even close to the losses we’ve suffered over time,” Carolyn Buffalo, a Montana First Nation mom in Maskwacis, Alta., said during an interview with TBEN News.

Buffalo has had to wage a bureaucratic battle with Ottawa throughout the life of her son, Noah Buffalo-Jackson, who is now 20. He has severe cerebral palsy and requires 24 hour care.

“I’ve had to fight for basic things, like wheelchairs, that other people would no doubt get,” Buffalo said.

“We didn’t ask for anything extra. We just wanted what other kids got.”

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Buffalo fears her son will fall short again, because the agreement between the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations does not guarantee him the same compensation that other children would receive.

VIEW | Canadian human rights tribunal closes hearings on $20 billion settlement:

Growing Calls to Renegotiate Ottawa’s Milestone $20 Billion First Nations Child Welfare Agreement

Cindy Blackstock, an indigenous child welfare advocate, is one of a growing number of activists calling on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to renegotiate Ottawa’s landmark First Nations $20 billion child welfare deal. Critics argue that too many people have been included in the compensation package, which would result in some victims of discrimination getting less than they deserve.

In 2019, the tribunal ordered Canada to pay the maximum fine under the Canadian Human Rights Act: $40,000 to every First Nations child and caregiver denied essential services — under a policy known as Jordan’s Principle — as the Buffalo family did. .

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It also demanded that the government pay $40,000 to any child affected by the foster care system and their parents or grandparents, as long as children were not taken in for abuse.

Instead of paying damages as the orders are worded, the government struck a deal with the Assembly of First Nations, which sued Ottawa for $10 billion to compensate a group of children and families not covered by the orders of the tribunal fell.

The settlement they finalized in July is the largest in Canadian history. It covers children and families who have been discriminated against since 1991 — 15 years longer than the orders of the tribunal.

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“We were able to make a good decision and broaden it,” Stuart Wuttke, General Counsel to the Assembly of First Nations, said during Thursday’s hearing.

“A large number of children will receive more compensation and will be entitled to compensation than what this tribunal has ordered.”

Concerns compensation package will spread too thin

But the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society says the deal dilutes the tribunal’s human rights ruling.

“There has to be another way,” Sarah Clarke, a lawyer representing the Caring Society, said during Friday’s hearing.

“We couldn’t have come this far and recognize the rights of some to let only an outside proceeding determine how this will end.”

The Caring Society and AFN filed a human rights complaint against Ottawa in 2007 for underfunding the reserved child welfare system.

In a statement to TBEN News, Crown-Indigenous Relations Secretary Marc Miller, right, and Indigenous Services Secretary Patty Hajdu said they remain committed to ensuring that children and families are fairly compensated for past harm. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In 2016, the tribunal ruled that Ottawa had been discriminated against against First Nations children, saying Canada’s actions resulted in “trauma and harm to the very highest” and issued a 2019 fine.

The settlement agreement guarantees at least $40,000 to each First Nations child in reserve, who was forcibly removed from their homes, depending on the severity of the damage they suffered. on-reserve, who were removed from their homes.

But it can’t make the same promise to other families, like the Buffalos, who might get less.

“The $20 billion seems like a lot,” Buffalo said. “But it’s really not because the class is so big.”

Looking for an apology from the Prime Minister

In addition to more compensation, Buffalo said she wants the prime minister to apologize for all the losses suffered by her family and others.

“I want the Prime Minister to look Noah in the eye and say to him, ‘I’m sorry,’ Buffalo said.

“No one has ever apologized to us.”

A memorial is displayed on Parliament Hill while ceremonies take place for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on September 30, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller declined interviews with TBEN News.

But in a statement, they said the compensation structure was designed by Indigenous partners and “reflects their experiences with other compensation programs.”

“We remain committed to ensuring that children and families are fairly compensated for past harm,” the statement said.

Buffalo said she will not back down and will continue to fight for her son, whom she calls the joy of her family’s life.

“Noah is worth everything,” Buffalo said.

“We feel really blessed that he has chosen us as his parents and I hope we are good enough for him because he is so special.”