Earlier this month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh put forward a motion calling on the federal government to stop taking Indigenous children and survivors to court.
On June 7, the motion passed with 271 votes for and zero against. Parliamentarians from all parties came together and demanded that the Liberal government cease all court battles regarding the recent rulings from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT).
While the prime minister and his cabinet ministers refused to vote on the motion, the support is clearly huge.
The federal government is currently attempting to appeal a CHRT ruling that would have Canada pay $40,000 each to approximately 50,000 First Nations children who were separated from their families and forced into the child-welfare system — as well as to each of their parents or grandparents.
The Trudeau government is also fighting another tribunal decision that would see the applicability of Jordan’s Principle widen.
“This is just the start. This by no means is a finish,” said Singh in reference to the overwhelming support of the motion. “This is just the start, but it is a powerful start and we want to keep on walking this path.”
“If the Liberal government continues to fight these kids in court despite the will of Parliament, that is more than a betrayal, that is a complete abdication of listening to the voices of Canada, to listening to justice.”
Singh’s motion was made just days after the discovery of a mass grave of 215 First Nations children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. And while the motion is legally non-binding, meaning that Trudeau can continue to fight the CHRT’s rulings, continuing the legal battles would be against the wishes of Parliament.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the reason for the foster care compensation battle was because his government didn’t think it was fair.
“Should someone who went to a day school for a few months, or a year be compensated to the exact same amount as someone who was in a traumatic situation over many, many years, where they were taken from their families and had a very, very different experience?” he asked.
“Right now, the human rights tribunal says everyone should get exactly the same amount. We don’t know that that’s entirely fair.”
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, wants the federal government to stop inflicting “further pain against children and do the right thing.”
Cindy Blackstock, executive firector of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, believes that the motion is a good way to move forward, but thought it was “too bad” that Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Crown-Indigenous relations Minister Carolyn Bennett abstained from voting on the motion.
“They should be championing this motion,” Blackstock said in a Twitter post.
Chief Robert Joseph, hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation on B.C.’s Central Coast and a knowledge keeper for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations said, “It has been a sad, sad day in the Indigenous community.”
“Laws, and policies must change; the way we think of each other needs to change and we need to talk to each other in different ways,” said Joseph. “Our resolve will deepen as a result of all these incremental steps we take, including this (motion).”