On 24 October the Canadian Federal Court announced their approval of a settlement between the Assembly of First Nations, the Moushoom and Trout (class actions plaintiffs) and Canada. The settlement is to compensate First Nations children and families who have faced decades of inadequate funding due to discriminatory practices by the First Nations Child and Family Services as well as those who have been negatively impacted by the Canadian government’s narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle (a child first principle that was supposed to ensure that First Nations children got the services and essential products they needed).
This is a groundbreaking and unprecedented settlement with $23.34 billion being given in compensation. It is the largest settlement amount in Canadian History. Historically members of Canada’s First Nations population have faced discrimination and an extreme lack of support from their own government and remain one of Canada’s largest human rights issues to this day. The suit arose because of Canada’s chronic underfunding of reservation foster care services and somewhat blatant disregard for Jordan’s principle, often separating First Nations children from their homes and communities when placed in foster care. In 2007 the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada along with the Assembly of First Nations filed a formal human rights complaint with the government. In 2016, nine years after the complaint was filed, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal released its decision. They upheld the complaint, confirming what many had long known to be true, the First Nations Child and Family Services Program was not only severely underfunded but that they were operating in a discriminatory manner. An order for the government to reform the family services program and properly uphold Jordan’s principle was made. The suit was later combined with another class action complaint and in 2019 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal released another decision ordering Ottawa (the province where the suit originated) to pay the maximum penalty, $40,000 per child affected. Despite the findings of the tribunal the Canadian government pushed back, but on Tuesday, 24 October 2023 the Federal Court announced that a settlement was reached and on 3 November their official decision was released.
The settlement has been heralded by human rights advocates in Canada as well as by various leaders of First Nations communities as a massive step in the right direction. The Canadian Human Rights Commission released a statement saying, “The Canadian Human Rights Commission applauds this week’s Federal Court ruling in a years-long legal process that began as a human rights complaint on behalf of First Nations children and their families”. One of the named parties in the suit, Zach Trout, stated, “We do not need to be treated as third class citizens in this country and I hope this makes a big statement for the future generations to come". While there are still years of work to do when it comes to rectifying the mistreatment and discrimination that First Nations people face at the hands of the Canadian government, this settlement is a massive indication that the tides might just be turning.
For the Federal Court’s judgement on the settlement click here https://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fc-cf/decisions/en/item/524358/index.do?q=%22trout%22 For the statement issued by the Canadian Human Rights Commission click here https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/en/resources/historic-milestone-landmark-human-rights-case