This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.
Cindy Blackstock is hoping Canada’s minority parliament will do what the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has been unable to – make the government compensate victims of the child welfare system and their families.
“This could mean more accountability, more co-operation and more justice for kids than a majority situation would,” she said after Monday’s election result.
Voters elected a minority Liberal government that will need co-operation from opposition parties to make major decisions.
Blackstock, a former social worker and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, believes the tribunal’s ruling is one of those big decisions.
“I would like to see the Greens and NDP tell the Liberals to withdraw the review and pay the kids out,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced Oct. 4, during the campaign, that his government wanted a judicial review of the tribunal’s ruling that would cost the country billions of dollars via $40,000 payments to victims and families.
The ruling was the latest in a historic human rights case filed in 2007 by Blackstock’s organization and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
Both Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer support a judicial review but then confused matters, Blackstock said, by claiming they would pay compensation.
Something Blackstock said was causing stress for victims and families as they try to understand what’s happening.
“I’m concerned and I’m getting questions from community members,” she added.
“They’re confused between what the prime minister is saying and what the legal documents say.”
The Greens and New Democrats have said they would follow the ruling, which Blackstock believes is the right thing to do.
“I’d like to see everybody at the House of Commons really say that the time for discriminating against these kids is over and the time for fighting systemic court about their compensation is over,” she said.
“But I have been disappointed many times before.”
Another big project awaiting decision by the minority government is expansion of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline – a move that is generating protests and dividing Canadians.
“I’ve said from the outset it will never see the light of day,” said Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a staunch opponent.
Now that the Greens, NDP and Bloc Quebecois, who are all anti-pipeline, hold the balance of power, Philip remains even more “convinced of that.”
The Conservatives based their Indigenous platform on the need to include Indigenous communities in pipelines projects, including a proposed “national energy corridor.”
Trudeau will not have to look far for support to push the Trans Mountain expansion project through if the time comes.
Philip also thinks the Liberals will restart talks on their controversial implementation framework, which AFN doesn’t like.
But, more importantly, he expects them to move soon and quickly on adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“There will be movement on that – definitely,” he said in an interview.
“Business and industry groups are beginning to realize this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”
Treaty 3 chiefs in northwestern Ontario, represented by Nishnawbe Aski Nation, called on Trudeau “to accelerate progress on First Nations priorities.”
While the Inuit Circumpolar Council declared the minority government and electing Liberals in two of four Arctic ridings “positive for international Arctic issues.”