OTTAWA – Amnesty International welcomes a Federal Court decision to uphold a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on compensation and public services for Indigenous children today.
“The federal government never should have taken Indigenous children to court in the first place,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English-speaking branch. “Today’s decision – a day before the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – signals a step towards justice for First Nations children. We urge the federal government to act without delay and properly compensate the First Nations children, youth and families who Canada has harmed.”
In 2019, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada “willfully and recklessly” discriminated against First Nations children living on reserve because it did not properly fund child and family services. The ruling ordered Canada to monetarily compensate First Nations children, youth, and families with the maximum allowable amount under the Canadian Human Rights Act. In October 2019, the federal government applied for judicial review of that decision and, today, the Federal Court quashed that appeal.
The decision also relates to who is eligible for Jordan’s Principle, which is a rule that ensures Indigenous children living on- and off-reserve have equitable access to services. It is also intended to resolve jurisdictional disputes about whether the provincial/territorial or federal government is responsible for providing those services.
Amnesty International intervened on this case at the request of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Amnesty International argued that the Canadian Human Rights Act must be interpreted consistently with Canada’s international obligations. International law strictly prohibits discrimination against an individual or group because they are Indigenous. Canada also has obligations under international law to protect children. These obligations require the government to consider the best interests of First Nations children in all of its actions, including by preserving their family environment and protecting their cultural identity through the provision of appropriate child welfare services.