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Kw'umut Lelum Applauds Ruling for Indigenous Children

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) today ruled that compensation should be awarded to First Nations children and youth, as well as parents and grandparents, for removals of children which were due to poverty, lack of housing, where all measures were not taken to keep them with their families and communities, or where children had to be put in care to access needed medical and therapeutic services. The compensation awarded is between $20,000.00 and $40,000.00, or more if there are multiple children involved.

“The provincial child welfare systems participated in this discrimination by removing children without using the least disruptive measures, and by making it very difficult for our agencies to get up in running. For a long time they looked down on our First Nations organizations as being second class and did not involve us or include us. So much change is required to make this right, but today is a good beginning. This decision validates what our Chiefs and families have been raising for many years—the removal of our children without putting in place proper supports or services is discrimination and has caused utmost harm to our people.” Said Executive Director William Yoachim. “At Kw’umut Lelum, we will support our children, youth and families to access the compensation and support all First Nations peoples in our service area, while these matters get sorted out. No financial compensation can replace the incredible loss and pain experienced by removing children instead of supporting families and communities. Let us hope this marks a turning point and Canadians, as well as child welfare officials, take the human rights of First Nations families more seriously and approach their work and partnerships with cultural humility, kindness and support.”

KL has been supporting the Caring Society/AFN action since it was filed with the CHRT and was concerned that Canada opposed financial compensation since 2014. There have been 5 separate rulings or orders from the Tribunal on human rights matters, Jordan’s principle, and related concerns—all of which directed Canada to improve and respond to First Nations experiences. “This decision is welcome and for the children, families, communities, and especially for KL, we will be advocating for justice which is long overdue. We have been administering our own child welfare system under the Province of British Columbia for many years, but without adequate funding and support, and while our work has supported our communities and families, this decision highlights the pressure and difficulty we have had, working within a system that discriminates against our families by not providing us sufficient resources.” Said Robina Thomas, chair of KL. “Without a doubt we have seen children removed due to poverty, poor housing, and a lack of services.”

Says former youth in care Frankie Shaw: “As a former youth in care, this decision means a lot to me. It validates what I went through—which was rough because it broke down my family. I work hard now every day to rebuild and repair the harm and it was wrong. I should have been supported in my family and home and my family should have been kept strong. No money can pay for this hurt, but at least I have something in writing from Canada’s human rights tribunal that will tell the world this was discrimination, it was willful and reckless, and it was wrong.”

It should be noted that the Federal Government has 30 days to appeal the ruling, and that the Tribunal provided a deadline of December 10th to finalize the compensation process, so we don’t expect the funds to start flowing to those affected by the decision right away. We will continue to keep people updated as this decision unfolds.

To read a summary of the ruling from the First Nations Caring Society, click here:

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