Uphold Hereditary Rights and End Colonial Justice
Racist State’s Abuse of Indigenous Children, Families and Communities
— Philip Fernandez —
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the Canadian state’s child welfare system unjustly removed between 40,000 and 80,000 Indigenous children from their on-reserve homes during the period from 2006 to 2017. The decision, rendered on September 6, orders the Canadian government to compensate each child up to $40,000 and their parents and grandparents up to $20,000 for the damage and trauma the racist abuse has caused. This is the maximum the Tribunal can order to be paid.
The members of the Tribunal panel, Chair Sophie Marchildon and Edward Lustig, write in their finding that sufficient evidence exists to prove that Canada’s conduct was “wilful and reckless resulting in what we have referred to as the worst-case scenario under our [Human Rights] Act.” They write, “This case of racial discrimination is one of the worst possible cases warranting the maximum awards.”
The panel also notes: “No amount of compensation can ever recover what you have lost, the scars that are left on your souls or the suffering that you have gone through as a result of racism, colonial practices and discrimination.”
The case against the government was filed with the Tribunal in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) and Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Following the ruling, Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the FNCFCS said, “The Tribunal’s finding that Canada wilfully and recklessly discriminated against First Nations children demonstrates how little Canada learned from the residential school and the 60’s scoop apologies and class actions.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs wrote in a media statement: “The Tribunal found massive systemic discrimination and said it was willful and reckless on the part of the Government of Canada. This is something we have known in our own families and communities for a long time.” He added, “In British Columbia, I have witnessed the harm to First Nations children and families caused by removing children when supports in their homes, families and communities should have been considered or improved.”
The government has until December 10 to meet with the FNCFCS and AFN and arrive at a mechanism to compensate the child victims and their families.
Philip Fernandez is the MLPC candidate in the riding of Toronto Centre.