As the country continues to strive towards truth and reconciliation, the federal government has announced the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history for Indigenous children.
The issue stems from a complaint that was filed in 2007 under the Canadian Human Rights Act by The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations. However, it was not until 2016 that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled against Ottawa for their discriminatory underfunding of child and family services in their respective Indigenous communities.
For this agreement, $40 billion will be given out — the first half being given for compensation and the other half being spent on reforming the on-reserve child welfare system over a five-year period.
Those who meet eligibility for compensation include First Nations children who were removed from their homes while living on reserve or in the Yukon between April 1, 1991, and March 31, 2022. Eligible parties also include those affected by what the government calls its “narrowed definition” of Jordan’s principle: a policy that states the needs of a First Nations child requiring a government service take precedence over jurisdictional disputes over who pays for it, according to CBC.
Compensation will apply for those affected by this principle between December 12, 2007 and November 2, 2017.
“Giving money and running away is not handling Indigenous issues,” says Indigenous singer/songwriter Daniel Monkman (Zoongideewin, aka Zoon). Monkman is less worried about compensation and more interested in “longevity and sustainability.”
“We need our traditional lands back. Governments need to actually allow us to govern the lands and work side by side with them, not give us a hand for a good photo op in a federal election campaign, then back hand us when the campaign is over. I remember my dad received money for being forced to attend residential schools and still had to pay taxes on that payment.”
Monkman continues to say, “reconciliation to me is when both parties can heal, but that can only come from within— it can’t be bought, taxed, inflated, or voted on. I hope that with this settlement survivors will be able to use resources to heal themselves and pass that knowledge down to future generations and present communities. I also hope that Canadians and people in positions of power do research on our culture and try to have an open heart and understand that Indigenous people are not the problem.”
Meanwhile, York’s Provost & Vice-President Academic, Lisa Philipps, echoes Monkman’s sentiments. “While the settlement is a good and important step forward, the recent decision is only one part of the work that Canadians must acknowledge as essential.”
Philipps notes how important it is “to continually assess our efforts to remove barriers that limit fair and equitable access to opportunities for all members of our community.”
Philipps says that York “has a long-standing commitment to access, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and we recognize our shared responsibility for creating new and better relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples.”