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$23.34 Billion in Compensation for First Nations Children and Families

October 24, 2023, witnessed one of the largest settlement agreements in Canadian history when the federal court approved a $23 billion settlement agreement for First Nations children and families who have experienced racial discrimination through Ottawa’s chronic underfunding of the on-reserve foster care system and other family services. The amount, totaling over $23.34 billion, will compensate more than 300,000 First Nations children and families who experienced discrimination through the FNCFS Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.

The settlement agreement comes in the wake of a 2019 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruling that ordered Ottawa to pay the maximum human rights penalty for discrimination: $40,000 for each affected First Nations child and family member. In addition to the $23 billion for compensation, the government has also set aside an additional $20 billion for long-term reform of the on-reserve child welfare system and family services.

The Government of Canada was fighting a lawsuit filed by Trout in 2021 against Ottawa for failing to provide proper health support to his two children, Sanaye and Jacob, who suffered from a rare neurological disorder called Batten disease – both children died at under 10 years of age.

With this settlement, the government has finally acknowledged the requirement of special care and the unique needs of First Nations children. This settlement is a very important milestone in the road to compensating First Nations children and families for the harm that they have suffered. This further strengthens Jordan’s principle, a legal rule in Canada. Jordan’s Principle makes sure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and support they need, whenever they need them.

More than 4.12 million products, services and supports were approved under Jordan’s Principle between July of 2016 and October 31, 2023. These included speech therapy, educational support, access to medical equipment, mental health services and more. The approved funding expected to roll out in 2024 can further help with a wide range of health, social and educational needs, including the unique needs of children, youth and those with disabilities from First Nations.

While there are mixed views on why the government took so long to take this step, indigenous communities around Canada are looking at this settlement as a welcomed step and are looking forward to the compensation rollout by the government, expected to start in 2024. While compensation is a way to make up for past mistakes, the discrimination against indigenous peoples and their children needs to be taken out of society.

Jordan’s Principle is based on the heritage of the Jordan River Anderson

Jordan River Anderson was born in 1999 with multiple disabilities and stayed in the hospital from birth. At the age of 2, doctors approved that he could move to a special home for his medical needs. However, there was a disagreement between federal and provincial governments on who should pay for his home-based care.

Jordan River Anderson from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba stayed in the hospital until he passed away at the age of 5. In 2007, the House of Commons passed Jordan’s Principle, which was named in memory of Jordan – this was a pledge to ensure that First Nations children will receive the necessary products, services and support that they need, when they need them. Over the years, Jordan’s Principle has evolved into a legal obligation in Canada. As a result, First Nations children will receive support for generations to come.

You can learn more about Jordan’s principle and how to enroll for the program by clicking here.