Canada is appealing the decision to have indigenous children, but is seeking settlement talks

TORONTO, Oct. 29 (Reuters) – The Canadian government on Friday appealed a federal court ruling confirming a ruling that indigenous children and their caregivers who have been harmed by a discriminatory welfare system receive individual compensation, it said however, that she would suspend the appeal while she was in talks with the initial complainant.

The ruling marks the latest turn in a 14-year legal battle, but also a sign that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, long-committed to indigenous people, has a better chance of success outside of the courtroom.

It stands against the background of important legal victories for indigenous peoples in Canada – in human rights, contractual rights and loyalty. The accumulation of successes, say some lawyers, could lead governments to talk rather than accept battles they cannot win.

The government filed the appeal on Friday shortly before the deadline, but put it on hold and sought talks for two months starting Monday in order to reach an agreement. The federal decree upheld a ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Court.

Talks will focus on indigenous child compensation, long-term reform of the indigenous child welfare system and funding to support the provision of child and family services, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement. She later told reporters that she hoped the approach would “build a better system, a just system, a compassionate system in which no harm is done.”

Approximately 55,000 children are affected by the compensation ruling, which is estimated to cost the state billions of dollars. The government ministers refused to say how much the government had offered in order to obtain a meeting agreement.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Family and Child Caring Society, which filed the lawsuit, said they would not accept anything below the C $ 40,000 per child compensation ordered by the human rights court.

“We are interested in stopping the discrimination in order to create more victims,” ​​she told Reuters. “We are not prepared to negotiate them out of their legal liability.”


Recent victories include a Supreme Court order to recalculate payment for centuries-old acts, with compensation based not on the absolute minimum a government might have done in a Lac Seul First Nation case, but on what Lac Seul First Nation lost.

In another case, a court upheld a class action lawsuit on behalf of indigenous peoples for alleged police brutality in Canada’s Northern Territories – the first certified class action lawsuit for systemic discrimination by a police force in Canada, said James Sayce, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. The federal government is fighting against certification.

In British Columbia, the Blueberry River First Nation won a victory that was unique in its focus on mitigating contract rights and the cumulative effects of industrial development, said attorney Paul Seaman, head of the Gowling WLG’s Indigenous Law Group.

“This is a moment of reckoning,” Bruce McIvor, a partner at First Peoples Law in Vancouver, said earlier this year of the recent indigenous cases in Canada. The governments have promised reconciliation, he said. Now Canadians expect to “live up to the rhetoric”.

After years of urging governments and indigenous groups to negotiate rather than litigate, Canadian judges seem to have decided, “We can’t just keep trying to maintain the status quo,” said Alan Hanna, law professor at the University of Victoria.

That could make future lawsuits unnecessary if governments see that litigation will fail them, said attorney Lanise Hayes, director of Nelligan Law’s indigenous law practice group.

“We have probably reached a turning point where these situations are not things that indigenous peoples have to stand trial and argue over for years.”

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Adaptation by Diane Craft and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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