Question Period: Child and Family Services

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Red tulips, Ottawa

Hon. Brian Francis: Senator Gold, last year, after more than 16 years of legal battles, the settlement totalling more than $23 billion was reached to compensate First Nations children and parents or caregivers harmed by decades of chronic underfunding of child and family services and the narrow application of Jordan’s Principle. However, there has been a standstill on the other nearly $20 billion spread over five years to put an end to the discrimination.

Given the serious impact of the delay on First Nations children and their families, could you please outline what the federal government is doing to expedite negotiations? In addition, could you please provide a detailed breakdown of how much of the nearly $20 billion has been spent or committed to date?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. The government is and will continue to negotiate seriously and in good faith with its Indigenous partners on all issues, including this very important one that you outline.

I certainly am not in a position to provide information about how the negotiations are progressing, nor any of the financial details that may be on the table in discussion. For the moment, that is a matter for the negotiators.

I will certainly raise your legitimate concerns about the needs, sums and — most importantly — people who will benefit with the minister at the earliest opportunity.

Senator Francis: My understanding is that April 1 marked the second fiscal year in the rollout of the nearly $20 billion committed over five years. Answers are needed long before the deadline is reached.

Could you also inquire into whether the Prime Minister intends to make a public apology in the House of Commons to all First Nations children, families and communities harmed by Canada as requested by the Assembly of First Nations and others?

Senator Gold: I will certainly make those inquiries.

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