By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), whose landmark decisions on discrimination against First Nations children set the stage for a historic C$20 billion compensation agreement, threw the deal into doubt after it said the agreement does not fully satisfy its orders.
In January, the federal government and First Nations groups announced two C$20 billion agreements, one for compensation and the other for long-term reform of child and family services for First Nations people.
Advocates for First Nations had argued before the human rights tribunal and in court for more than a decade that First Nations children were being discriminated against, receiving inadequate care and being removed from their families.
The CHRT found evidence of discrimination and ordered compensation. Canada admitted its systems were discriminatory but had fought orders to pay compensation until the landmark deal this year.
The CHRT’s latest decision, dated Oct. 24 but made public on Tuesday, cited concerns that the agreement could result in some children and caregivers being paid less, the estates of deceased caregivers not getting compensation or payment being denied to children put in care not funded by Ottawa.
A government spokesperson said it is not yet clear whether negotiating parties will have to start from scratch or whether they can amend the agreement in a manner acceptable to the tribunal.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which spearheaded the human rights tribunal case, welcomed the tribunal’s move.
“We call on Canada to adopt the tribunal’s ruling and take up its clear suggestions to fix the (agreement) to ensure all victims get the human rights compensation and supports they are legally entitled to as soon as possible,” it said in a statement. “We are ready to assist Canada and the class action parties in doing so.”
Tuesday’s decision does not stop the work of the agreement on systemic reform, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters in Ottawa.
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Sandra Maler)