This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.

 

The Canadian federal government has consented to the certification of two class-action lawsuits that allege discriminatory underfunding of the First Nation child welfare system on reserves and in the Yukon.

Cabinet ministers Marc Miller and David Lametti announced the move in a joint statement Wednesday.

“Parties are all in agreement concerning the certification of the claims put forward by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Moushoom class council, including the certification of a Jordan’s Principle class beginning in 2007,” Miller, of Indigenous Services, said in the statement.

Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, noted the parties told the federal court about the development during an appearance to update the judge on the case.

“We are making progress in negotiations,” the statement said.

 

Former foster children 

Agreeing to certification could mean a quicker settlement for former foster children, including one of the representative plaintiffs – Xavier Moushoom.

Jeremy Meawasige is also a representative plaintiff in that claim.

Moushoom, an Algonquin man from Quebec, lived in at least 14 different foster homes over 10 years, losing his language and culture.

His lawsuit seeks compensation for now-adult children affected by on-reserve child welfare services between April 1, 1991, and March 1, 2019.

In its statement of claim, the AFN alleges the system discriminated against First Nations’ children by being deliberately under-funded.

 

Welcomed consent

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the Trudeau government’s consent to certification.

“Systemic discrimination against First Nations children is abhorrent,” Bellegarde said in an emailed statement.

“Canada’s decision to work with the AFN and its allies in addressing this tragedy is an important step.”

The AFN’s claim also alleges Ottawa failed to follow Jordan’s Principle, which puts the needs of a First Nations child ahead of jurisdictional disputes for medical and other public services.

It alleges “thousands” of children suffered or died while waiting for help from Ottawa between April 1, 1991 and March 1, 2019.

This is a breaking story with more to come.

By Kathleen Martens