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Acknowledging Those Affected and Involved in the $23B Settlement for Indigenous Youth in Care

Press Release - November 8th, 2023

Statement from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Election Candidate Sheila North

Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, MB - The Federal Court’s approval of the historic child welfare compensation for First Nations children marks a milestone for Indigenous peoples.

AFN National Chief Candidate Sheila North wishes to congratulate the many families, individuals and organizations, from coast to coast to coast that worked together to achieve this judgement and made this $23 billion agreement possible on Oct. 24.

To the plaintiffs, your courage in speaking up on behalf of your children and others in Canada brought reality face to face with Canada’s system of justice. The justices who heard this case saw not only the principle of law at issue but also the spirit of the law because of you.

The families are true heroes.

Jordan’s Principle would not exist without the example set by Jordan River Anderson's parents in Norway House Cree Nation. They took their case to the highest courts and pushed for laws to cover health care for on-reserve children, who suffer profound disabilities.

One individual and the organization she founded stands out: To Dr. Cindy Blackstock and to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, your efforts on behalf of children harmed by Canada’s discriminatory approach to child welfare and Jordan’s Principle reach back decades and your legacy will reach far into the future.

Dr. Blackstock has laid the foundations for restoring our families and our nations.

To the Chiefs of The Assembly of First Nations who stood up and backed the families and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, your efforts are an example in Reconciliation and Nation building, one that I have every expectation will grow and advance as our nations grow in strength across this land. As standard bearer, regional Vice Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak showed us that leadership is about working together with others for our nations."

About the Settlement

The Federal Court approved the $23 billion dollar settlement agreement-- the largest in Canadian history-- for First Nations children and families who suffered discrimination because of chronic federal underfunding for on-reserve foster care and family services.

The court decision followed a 2019 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered Ottawa to pay the maximum human rights penalty for discrimination, $40,000 for every First Nations child and family member affected by the miscarriage of justice. Ottawa disputed the ruling, and the Assembly filed a lawsuit that was later merged with another lawsuit before the court.

Zacheus Trout of the Cross Lake First Nation in Manitoba was one of lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in 2021. His words to CBC and other media when the decision was announced are worth recalling here.

“I hope this brings a change of how we look at Indigenous people and how we can move forward, reconciling all the differences between non-Indigenous and the Indigenous people right across Canada,” Mr. Trout told the CBC.

Mr. Trout had the courage and the determination to file his court action for the sake of his two children Sanaye and Jacob who suffered from Batten disease, a rare neurological disorder. They didn’t get the proper health support. Nothing can compensate their family for the loss of their children who both died before the age of 10.

“It is the children, their families, their champion Dr. Blackstock and their supporters in leadership who deserve our thanks for righting an historic wrong. Thank you,” National Chief candidate Sheila North said.

About National Chief Candidate Sheila North

Grand Chief Sheila North ---Wikahsho Iskwew--- is a Cree Leader, Politician, Policy Advocate, Author, Journalist and Broadcaster from Bunibonibee Cree Nation in the Treaty 5 Territory in Manitoba. She formerly served as Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO). She was elected in 2015 as the first woman to hold the position.

Grand Chief North is a lifelong activist for the Inherent, Treaty, Title and Human Rights of First Nations Peoples. She is currently running in the election for National Chief, to be held at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa Dec. 5-7, 2023.

See Links and Timeline

For more information, please contact:

Alexandra Paul

(204) 801-0773


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