The federal government has reached a $40-billion agreement in principle to compensate First Nations children harmed by an underfunded child welfare system.
The details of the announcement were revealed on Jan. 4, 2022, by the federal government as well as other joining parties.
The government will be setting aside $20 billion for compensating Indigenous children and their family members, and another $20 billion is earmarked for funding services for Indigenous kids.
This comes as great news for Saskatchewan Indigenous leaders, who say this has been a long time coming.
“For Cowessess First Nation, we have seen positives moving forward since April 1, 2021,” said Chief Cadmus Delorme. “We have no children in care on Cowessess First Nation…investing in the families and investing with our child welfare agency…today we have no children in care. Off-reserve, we have been doing more investments as well.”
Cowessess First Nation became the first Indigenous community in Saskatchewan to have Indigenous child welfare sovereignty. On July 6, 2021, Chief Delorme signed a coordination agreement under the Miyo Pimatisowin Act, respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
This gives Cowessess First Nation full jurisdiction over the community’s children in care anywhere in Canada. Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge is Cowessess’s child safety body that provides preventative and protective services to keep families together.
“An investment like the [Indigenous Child Welfare Compensation] will ensure that our children and our children unborn don’t inherit this,” said Chief Delorme. “Today, is a step forward for Canada and Indigenous people. Let’s just see if it’s implemented and let’s make sure we stand by one another.”
The first vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), David Pratt, said a lot of good and hard work has gone into the Indigenous Child Welfare compensation deal.
“We are very pleased and very happy,” said Pratt. “We look forward to engaging our First Nations here in Saskatchewan, getting their direction on how to move forward, and hopefully come to a good, long-standing agreement and commitment with the Government of Canada to deal with the child welfare issues.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 each to roughly 50,000 First Nations children and their relatives.
Over the next few months, the federal government along with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and other parties, will be working on a final settlement agreement which will contain provisions on eligibility for compensation and the application process.
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