Manitoba advocates are calling for the Ottawa to drop its appeal after a federal court dismissed an application from the federal government for a judicial review of a landmark human rights tribunal compensation order for First Nations children.
In 2019, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 — the maximum amount allowed — to each child apprehended through the on-reserve child welfare system since 2006.
A notice of appeal was formally filed by the government on Friday.
That was shocking for Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs family advocate Cora Morgan.
“If you want to do better for our children, then why not let it stand, provide the restitution and build on top of that and address all the other areas of harm that they’re experienced,” Morgan said in an interview with CBC News on Friday afternoon.
She said the child welfare system is one chapter in a long history of the apprehension of Indigenous children.
“We’ve had residential schools, the 60s Scoop, we had a period of the use of sanatorium, we had day schools and now we have the child welfare system.
“Moving forward, we need to stop discriminating against children and work really hard to address the harms because we have so many social issues resulting in the theft of children,” Morgan said.
Move not consistent with reconciliation: Grand Chief
Another advocate said nearly every generation has been affected in some way by this theft.
“As Sixties Scoop Survivors (who are often children and grandchildren of [residential school] survivors, we have been subjected to harmful discrimination only to have our children and grandchildren be victimized by the federal government,” Katherine Legrange, the director of the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada said in a statement.
“Trudeau needs to stop fighting kids in court, pay the ordered compensation, and stop discriminating against Indigenous families once and for all.”
The move to appeal the federal court’s decision is “extremely disappointing,” and not consistent with true reconciliation, said Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak in a Friday statement.
“I urge the Government of Canada to drop this notice to appeal and end the discrimination against First Nations children and their families.”
Manitoba has about 10,000 children in care, approximately 8,000 of whom are First Nations children, Morgan said.
Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu said in a news conference on Friday that further legal action will be put on hold while the parties try to strike a deal.
“We will work with the parties to put in place an approach that will best serve the children,” she said at a news conference that day.
She said Ottawa will try to reach a resolution out of court by December 2021.
Morgan hopes an agreement can be made quickly to compensate people and address problems with the system.
“Moving forward we need to stop discriminating against children and work really hard to address the harms because we have so many social issues resulting of the theft of children,” she said.
“We need to act quickly. Lives are at stake, people are suffering every single day.”