Ottawa Announces $40 Billion Child Welfare Agreement for Indigenous Children

By Andrew Chen
Andrew Chen
Andrew Chen
Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
January 4, 2022Updated: January 4, 2022

The federal government has announced that it has reached a $40 billion agreement in principle with indigenous leaders to compensate children harmed by the situation on reserves.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announced the agreement at a press conference on Tuesday, saying the settlement marks the largest in Canadian history.

Half of money will be paid for compensation, while the other $20 billion will go toward reforming the on-reserve child welfare system over five years.

The First Nations children living on reserves and those in Yukon who were taken from their homes between April 1, 1991, and March 31, 2022, will be compensated along with their parents and caregivers.

The compensation will also go to those affected by what the government said was its “narrow definition” of Jordan’s Principle—a child-first principle to provide First Nations children access to the products, services, and support they need—between Dec. 12, 2007, and Nov. 2, 2017. Children who were unable to access essential public services or products between April 1, 1991, and Dec. 11, 2007, are also included.

The government said the final agreement will still be under negotiation over the coming months, and that the money for compensation will be released once all agreements are reached and the necessary court and human rights orders have been made.

The compensation talks were chaired by Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), said more than 200,000 children and their families will be affected by the agreement. Woodhouse also took part in the negotiations.

The issue of compensation began when the AFN and the First Nations Children and Family Caring Society filed a human rights complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2007, arguing that the services provided by provincial governments to children on-reserves were underfunded compared to children off-reserve, and that this was discriminatory.

Following multiple court challenges and appeals by the former Conservative government, the 2007 complaint was heard by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2013 and 2014.

In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children and that those removed from their homes because of its chronic underfunding were entitled to receive $40,000 in compensation, the maximum payment allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In 2019, the Liberal government challenged that decision, and in September 2021, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the tribunal.

The Canadian Press contributed to this article.