After rejecting appeals from Prime Minister Trudeau, a federal court has ordered the government to pay up for injustices committed against Indigenous children.
On Wednesday, just one day before Truth and Reconciliation Day, The Honourable Mr. Justice Favel ruled that the government had failed to prove that decisions made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals regarding the treatment of Indigenous children were unreasonable, and that compensation was thus warranted.
In his decision, Justice Favel stated that "no one can seriously doubt that First Nations people are amongst the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of Canadian society."
In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a verdict regarding a 2007 complaint made against the federal government by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations.
According to the Caring Society, "the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs’ (INAC) provision of First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) and implementation of Jordan’s Principle is flawed, inequitable and thus discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act." Jordan's principle refers to legislation passed in memory of Jordan Anderson, an Indigenous child who died in hospital while the provincial and federal governments argued over who should pay for his care.
Despite challenges by the government, the tribunal ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, finding that Indigenous children were indeed being discriminated against.
In 2019, the tribunal found that the Canadian government "wilfully and recklessly discriminated against First Nations children," and ordered the payment of $40,000 in compensation to victims, namely those who had been unnecessarily taken from their homes or denied essential services. A full list of those who qualified for compensation can be found here.
In 2020, the tribunal ruled that Jordan's principle was still not being applied by the federal government. According to APTN, appeals were heard despite a unanimous passing of a motion in the House of Commons asking Trudeau and the federal government not to proceed. APTN notes that Trudeau and his cabinet abstained from voting.
Indigenous groups celebrated Wednesday's landmark ruling.
The Assembly of First Nations sent out a series of tweets about the decision, calling it "a win for First Nations children and families!"
According to APTN, the ruling can be challenged in the Federal Court of Appeal, and potentially even the Supreme Court of Canada, however many are urging Trudeau and the federal government not to appeal, as the families impacted by the decision have been through enough already.