Feds fight ruling on compensation for failures in First Nations child services


First Nations chiefs are expressing outrage and disappointment at the federal government's decision to appeal a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling.

The tribunal ordered Ottawa to pay billions of dollars in compensation to First Nations children and their families separated by a chronically underfunded child-welfare system.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde calls it beyond unacceptable that the government of Canada is once again preparing to fight First Nations children in court.

He says the government could have addressed the broken system and the funding inequalities before, but they didn't.

Ottawa has asked the Federal Court to review the tribunal's September ruling, which found the federal government "wilfully and recklessly'' discriminated against Indigenous children living on-reserve by not properly funding child and family services.

Off-reserve children, covered by provincial agencies, typically had more resources devoted to them.

The result was a mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents into foster care.

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he agrees with many of the tribunal's findings, including that victims should be compensated, but that more time is needed for consultation.

He says there has to be conversations with partners, with communities and with leaders to make sure we're getting the compensation right.

Trudeau says government can't be having those discussions during a writ period.

He says we need time to be able to do that because Canadians and Indigenous Peoples expect us to get it right.

The ruling awards 40-thousand dollars for each child unnecessarily taken away from his or her family and the same amount for each of their parents or grandparents.

The Assembly of First Nations estimates the minimum compensation bill at 2.1-billion dollars but a Liberal source says the final amount awarded could be as much as eight-billion.