Free financial literacy services proposed as part of First Nations child welfare compensation order
First Nations youth who were in care told consultants they're worried about falling victim to scams
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has lined up help from the Royal Bank of Canada as part of its proposal on how to distribute compensation to First Nations children taken from their families and communities through the on-reserve child welfare system.
In September, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children — along with some of their parents and grandparents — apprehended from their families and communities through the on-reserve child welfare system and in Yukon.
The Caring Society, with the support of the Assembly of First Nations, filed a human rights complaint in 2007 that led to the compensation order.
Cindy Blackstock, the Caring Society's executive director, said help with financial literacy was one of the top needs identified by First Nations youth in care during consultations around the human rights tribunal compensation order.
"We wanted to make sure we responded and [the Royal Bank of Canada] really helped make that possible," said Blackstock.
"We are just beginning the work with them, but I am so delighted they are offering their expertise to recipients."
Blackstock filed an affidavit Monday outlining some of the steps her organization has taken in developing a proposal for distributing compensation and identifying recipients under the tribunal's order.
The affidavit said that the bank had agreed to provide "financial literacy supports and other services" to those receiving compensation "at no cost and with no obligations."
Proposal deadline moved
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) confirmed its involvement in a statement sent to CBC News.
"Providing financial literacy services and support is an important part of how RBC supports communities, especially marginalized ones," said the statement.
"For many potential recipients of these compensation orders, it will be the first time they access a bank and that can be a daunting experience for anyone."
The bank's statement said the services on offer did "not include special products and accounts." The bank said it provided similar financial literacy services to residential school survivors who received compensation through the residential schools settlement agreement.
In its September order, the human rights tribunal instructed the federal government, the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations to develop a proposal on the mechanism for distributing compensation by Dec. 10. The tribunal moved the deadline to Jan. 29, 2020 at the federal government's request, after the federal government went to the Federal Court seeking to pause the order while awaiting a judicial review.
The Federal Court denied the request to pause the order. The court has yet to hold hearings on the judicial review application.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said last week the federal government wants to strike a settlement deal for compensation outside of the tribunal process, preferably through a class action lawsuit filed in March.
Blackstock's affidavit also stated she had been in contact with experts and academics on the issue that included potential models on how to identify recipients and offer mental health support throughout the potential process.
The Youth in Care Canada organization also conducted a national consultation through a contract with the Caring Society with First Nations youth who had been in the child welfare system, the affidavit said.
Its report, filed as an attachment to the affidavit, said youth wanted financial training to avoid falling victims to scams.
"Recipients should be offered awareness training about predatory banks and financial institutions, like those that swindled compensation from residential school survivors," said the report.
Some residential school survivors were offered loans by lawyers against their compensation under the settlement agreement.
The consulted youth said they wanted at least one year of counselling and therapy following any compensation payout, said the report.
They also wanted access to sweat lodges and healing circles throughout the process along with mental health support and guidance during the application process for compensation, the report said.
"The Youth Advisors discussed how they might use $40,000 in compensation, such as making a down payment on a house … or resuming the post-secondary education they had to abandon for financial and other reasons," said the report.
"Experiences with such financial settlements are multifaceted and can trigger a lot of emotional hurt and repressed suffering."