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Assembly of First Nations sues federal government for discrimination over removal of children

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Feb 12, 2020 at 1:42 pm PDT

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde is seen during the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Wednesday December 4, 2019. The Assembly of First Nations says they're taking the federal government to court to seek damages for thousands of children and their families affected by federal child welfare policies on reserve. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Seeking damages for thousands of First Nations children

'Perpetuated the historical disadvantage resulting from the residential schools'

Lawsuit builds on our work and evidence at the Canadian Human Right Tribunal

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Assembly of First Nations has launched a class-action lawsuit seeking $10-billion in damages for what it calls “discrimination suffered by First Nations children in the child welfare system.”

The AFN is seeking damages for thousands of First Nations children, adding Canada’s welfare system incentivized their removal from families and nations.

“Year after year, generation after generation, Canada systemically discriminated against First Nations children and families simply because they were First Nations,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

“It did so by underfunding preventive care, perpetuating the historical disadvantage resulting from the residential schools. Canada breached its responsibility to our children and families, infringed on their Charter rights, and caused them real harm and suffering. We will always stand up for our children.”

According to a release, the class action lawsuit asserts that Canada’s funding was discriminatory because the system created an incentive to remove First Nations children from their families and Nations and put them in out-of-home care.

The lawsuit also alleges funding for First Nations children on-reserve in the child welfare system is less than for those off-reserve.

Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who holds the child welfare portfolio, said the assembly has the experience and expertise to fight for a fair and just outcome for First Nations children and families.

The lawsuit follows a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision last year that the government did discriminate against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services.

The tribunal ordered compensation, and while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphatically agreed that it’s needed, his government is still challenging the ruling.

The AFN says the lawsuit is broader and covers those not included in the tribunal’s decision.