In Canada, the government on Tuesday announced that it has reached a historic tentative agreement with Indigenous people to compensate them for three decades of discriminatory treatment by the child welfare system — and to fix it, as reported by the New York Times.
The government called the $31.5 billion settlement the largest in Canadian history. Half of that amount will compensate roughly 200,000 Indigenous children who were unnecessarily removed from their homes, as well as their families and caregivers since 1991. The rest will go toward reforming the system as the government redoubles efforts to keep families together.
“First Nations from across Canada have had to work very hard for this day to provide redress for monumental wrongs against First Nation children, wrongs fueled by an inherently biased system,” said Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, which is the largest Indigenous organization in the country.
“This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s in fact about poverty,” she said at a news conference.”
While less than 8% of Canada’s children under age 14 are Indigenous, they account for more than half of those in foster care, according to 2016 census data, the Times reported.
“Canada could have settled this case for hundreds of millions of dollars back in 2000, when we raised the alarm that First Nations kids were getting 70 cents on the dollar compared to other kids,” said Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the organization that filed the case.
“Canada chose not to do that,” Blackstock added. “And now we are into the tens of billions of dollars and most importantly, children have lost their lives and sometimes their childhoods in the process.”
The settlement, when finalized, will terminate several class action lawsuits brought by First Nations.
Marc Miller, Canada’s minister of crown-Indigenous relations, said at a news conference in Ottawa that it was the largest settlement in Canadian history, acknowledging that “no amount of money can reverse the harms experienced by First Nations children.”