Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the government has started to lay the groundwork for compensating First Nations children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system.
Miller, speaking to the Assembly of First Nations’ December special assembly on Tuesday, told chiefs he would be appointing a point person to co-ordinate with interested parties on the First Nations side to start discussions aimed at reaching a settlement on child welfare.
“We are committed to working constructively, quickly with the parties to reach a comprehensive settlement that will benefit First Nations, children and families,” said Miller.
Miller said the government would be moving forward with certification of a $6 billion lawsuit filed in March on behalf of First Nations children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system who were denied health services.
“We share the same goal — a comprehensive, fair and equitable resolution.”
Miller directly addressed the criticism coming from First Nations leaders over the federal government’s decision to challenge the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order for compensation. That order directed Ottawa to give First Nations individuals apprehended through the child welfare system on reserves and in Yukon $40,000 each in compensation.
“It’s a difficult, emotional and painful topic, particularly because we are dealing with children,” said Miller.
“I want to reiterate — we never questioned whether they are due compensation. They are. There is no question.”
The Federal Court on Friday denied a request from the federal government to place a hold on the tribunal order.
The federal government is now waiting on a hearing before the Federal Court on a related application for a judicial review of the tribunal order aimed at quashing it. Ottawa argues the tribunal overreached in its order, venturing into class action law.