Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett, left, looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde participates in the signing of the Assembly of First Nations-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities on Parliament Hill, on June 12, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Sean Kilpatrick)

OTTAWA - The federal government is appealing a ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering Ottawa to pay $2 billion in compensation to First Nations children and their families who were separated by a chronically underfunded child-welfare system.

The government has filed a notice of application with the Federal Court, asking for a judicial review of the tribunal's ruling in September.

In that decision, the tribunal said the federal government "wilfully and recklessly" discriminated against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services.

The result was a mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents for years in a system Indigenous leaders say had more First Nations kids living in foster care than at the height of the residential-schools era.

The tribunal awarded the maximum damages it can -- $40,000 -- for each child taken away for lack of proper services or who was later returned to his or her family; for each parent or grandparent who had a child taken; for each child who experienced abuse in foster care; and for each child who was taken into foster care because proper medical supports were not made available to their families.

The decision to challenge the ruling comes three days before the Oct. 7 deadline to file an appeal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2019.