'Time for swift action': SCO calls for $40B in government reparations to be given out, reform undertaken now

Ottawa is setting $40 billion aside for First Nations child welfare as the federal government carries on talks for settling compensation claims. The Assembly of First Nations is appreciative of the government's commitment, but a Manitoba chief believes money alone will not heal old wounds.

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels wants feds to speed up the process of compensation

Thousands of people attend a ‘Cancel Canada Day’ in support of First Nations communities across the country in Vancouver on July 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A group representing First Nations in southern Manitoba is calling on the federal government to speed up the pace of reform and compensation for people who were hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system.

On Monday, Ottawa announced it is setting $40 billion aside for First Nations child welfare as the federal government carries on talks for settling compensation claims.

Now the Southern Chiefs' Organization wants to ensure reparations are given directly to victims and reform to begin immediately. 

"As First Nation People have said repeatedly, no amount of money could ever compensate for the harm caused by Canada's child welfare system and the legacy of colonialism in this country," Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a news release. "However, it's an important first step, and the federal government should have honoured the [Canadian Human Rights Tribunal]'s ruling when it was handed down.

"Instead, they chose to alienate victims further by challenging it in court. While I am pleased to learn that $40 billion has been set aside for compensation and reform, it's now time for swift action to get reparations to victims. The clock is ticking."

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announced the compensation and commitment of the funds necessary to implement long-term reform.

The earmarked funds are part of the federal government's fall economic update and date back to September 2019 when the tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to children, and their guardians, who attended on-reserve child welfare system from 2006 to a date to be determined by the tribunal.

The federal government subsequently filed for a judicial review of the order in October 2019.

On Sept. 29, 2021, one day before National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, federal court upheld the 2019 ruling.

"I urge the federal government to move quickly on its obligation to compensate victims and work with the First Nations Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations on a plan to distribute reparations to those who are entitled without further delay," said Daniels.

"Beyond that, there is still much work to be done on reform. We expect our partners in the federal government to collaborate with us on a nation-to-nation basis going forward, so we can ensure the needs of our people are met with full autonomy from federal and provincial governments."