Ministerial Question Period: Indigenous Child Welfare

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Red tulips, Ottawa

Hon. Brian Francis: Minister Miller, Dr. Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada has called upon the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the CHRT, to not approve the $20-billion child welfare compensation deal negotiated by the Assembly of First Nations and your government. Dr. Blackstock argues that the current version fails to ensure every complainant will receive a minimum of $40,000, which was the amount ordered by the tribunal back in 2019.

Could you please explain why the deal gives a lesser amount or completely excludes some individuals, including children placed in family arrangements? How was it determined that such deferential treatment is justified?

Hon. Marc Miller, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations: Thank you, senator. It’s an exceedingly important question, a difficult question to ask in the midst of the various fairness hearings. One hearing is occurring now in front of the CHRT, for which the court has reserved judgment for a couple of weeks. As well, the corresponding Federal Court decision will come out. I think it would be undue in terms of process for me to speak as to the different legal arguments that exist.

I would note that both Minister Hajdu and I wrote a letter to Dr. Blackstock, and I believe it’s public that we would ensure that every First Nations child who has been removed would get a minimum of $40,000.

Our challenge has always been a global one, which is addressing the spectrum of harm that occurred all the way back to the 1990s that the CHRT does not deal with. We’re dealing with three class actions with the CHRT where we’re trying to make sure every complainant is dealt with in an equitable fashion and come to a deal with rights holders, making sure that those who were entitled to even more than $40,000 would actually get that.

The CHRT order could only give as much as $40,000. We’re dealing with people who have suffered harm where the amount could go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a matter of fairness for people. In some cases, what we have proposed will actually ensure that the people who were hurt the most will get more than the CHRT could ever order.

Those are arguments that are currently in front of the court, so I will exercise a touch of reserve in speaking more about it.

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