Assembly of First Nations' federal class action lawsuit will fight for justice and fairness for victims of First Nations child welfare system

Pictured: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.(Photo: Assembly of First Nations)

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Welfare system incentivized the removal of First Nation children from their families and Nations

News Release

Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has filed a federal class action lawsuit to seek damages and justice for the thousands of First Nations children and families that have been discriminated against by Canada's child welfare system that incentivized the removal of First Nation children from their families and Nations.

"Year after year, generation after generation, Canada systemically discriminated against First Nations children and families simply because they were First Nations," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "It did so by underfunding preventive care, perpetuating the historical disadvantage resulting from the residential schools. Canada breached its responsibility to our children and families, infringed on their Charter rights, and caused them real harm and suffering. We will always stand up for the survivors of a racist child welfare system."

The class action lawsuit filed by the Assembly of First Nations asserts, among other things, that Canada's funding was discriminatory because the federal system created a perverse incentive to remove First Nations children from their families and Nations and put them in out-of-home care; it failed to account for different needs among First Nations in different locations; and funding for First Nations children on-reserve in the child welfare system is significantly less than children in the child welfare system off-reserve.

Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart holds the child welfare portfolio within the Assembly of First Nations.

"The Assembly of First Nations has the experience and expertise in the area of First Nations child welfare, including its years of work at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on this issue, and is best placed to fight for a fair and just outcome for First Nations children and families," Regional Chief Hart said. "This Assembly of First Nations class action builds on our work and evidence at the Canadian Human Right Tribunal and challenges the federal government's systemic discriminatory approach to child and family services and the denial of services to our children under Jordan's Principle. The Assembly of First Nations class action is seeking compensation for all those harmed by the system, including those not covered in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's decision."

In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found that the Government of Canada was systemically discriminating against First Nations children on-reserve and in the Yukon in its implementation of child and family services. On September 6, 2019 the CHRT ordered Canada to pay $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children and their families where a wrongful apprehension occurred or where there was a denial of services due to Canada's lack of implementation of Jordan's Principle. The work to implement the Tribunal's ruling on compensation and child welfare reform will continue as a separate track from the class action.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow the Assembly of First Nations on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

Assembly of First Nations, AFN logo small
(Image: Assembly of First Nations)
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