Federal court dashes Canada’s appeals to two rulings on financial compensation for residential and day school students

Glen Hare

M’CHIGEENG – Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare is hopeful the federal government doesn’t once again appeal a federal court decision that dismisses the government’s Indigenous child-welfare appeals, or a separate federal court decision that approved the residential school day scholars settlement. 

“Well, again there is a lot of things that are coming up that are facts. We can’t leave anyone behind who attended residential schools,” said Regional Chief Hare. “I just hope the government does not appeal the federal court decisions anymore.”  

As for winners of any federal court decisions made that are appealed by the government, “the only ones that are winners in all of this are the legal people,” said Regional Chief Hare. “When the federal courts decide on these cases no one should have to rely on the legal people to have to fight appeals being made by the federal government.”

“I feel that yes and no, these (federal court) decisions are good,” stated Chief Hare when contacted by The Expositor on Thursday of last week. “You know, Cindy Blackstock (executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada) said it very well when she said to the government yesterday, “put down your sword.”

“I really hope the federal government doesn’t appeal the ruling(s), or you can throw the truth and reconciliation process being carried out today out the window,” stated Chief Hare, last Thursday.

The Canadian Press (CP) reported September 29 that the federal court dismissed Ottawa’s attempts to appeal a pair of rulings about providing service and compensation to First Nations children.

In September 2019, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Ottawa didn’t properly fund children and family service, which resulted in it willfully and recklessly discriminating against Indigenous children living on reserve,” reported CP. It ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 each to about 50,000 First Nations children as well as their relatives, but the Liberal government appealed the ruling.

“No one can seriously doubt that First Nations people are amongst the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of Canadian society,” Justice Paul Favel wrote in his decision released on Wednesday of last week. “The Tribunal was aware of this and reasonably attempted to remedy the discrimination while being attentive to the very different positions of the parties.” 

Justice Favel wrote, “in my view, the procedural history of this case has demonstrated that there is and has been good will resulting in significant movements toward remedying this unprecedented discrimination. However, the good work of the parties is unfinished. The parties must decide whether they will continue to sit beside the trail or move forward in this spirit of reconciliation.” 

Ms. Blackstock says the judicial reviews Ottawa launched took direct aim at central calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada regarding child welfare and Jordan’s Principle, reported CP. “This is the moment for Canadians, with the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and knowing that these are some of the top calls to action to get ahold of their elected officials and say, ‘put down your sword’.”

A second decision was announced by the federal court of Canada last week which approved a settlement reached in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government by survivors of residential schools who were left out of a 2006 settlement agreement. 

The day scholars settlement, which had been announced in June, was approved by the federal court on September 24, a release from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada states. The settlement is separate from the 2019 settlement for former federal day school students, operated separately from residential schools but by many of the same groups that ran residential schools.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said in a release, “the mistreatment of Indigenous children is a tragic and shameful part of Canada’s history, 

the impacts of which are still being felt today. The Government of Canada is deeply committed to advancing reconciliation and healing for former Indian Residential School Day Scholars and their descendants.”

“Certainly, I appreciate the comments the minister (Bennett) made,” stated Carol Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. “But I would assume the government is looking at reviewing the decision. These decisions are being made repeatedly, with governments set on appealing decisions and not following court decisions.” 

“If the federal government is truly serious about reconciliation they will accept the courts decisions, respect them and do the right thing,” said MP Hughes. 

“I think it is time to move forward, the longer these cases drag on the more affects it has on residential school survivors,” continued MP Hughes. “What’s been happening is the government has been fighting the decisions made by the federal courts as part of the reconciliation. The 94 calls to action need to be acted on and the feds need to be at the table with First Nations and working with them. And Prime Minister Trudeau not being part of the First Truth and Reconciliation Day event shows a lack of understanding on the part of the prime minister a lack of understanding of Indigenous persons and issues that continue to affect them.”

The settlement includes individual compensation of $10,000, as well as support for healing, wellness, education, language, culture, heritage and commemoration for survivors and descendants, the release said. There is a 60-day appeal period. 

“The courts have heard the cases and have made their decisions, let’s move forward on all of these cases and court decisions,” stated Regional Chief Hare.