Human rights tribunal postpones compensation submission deadline on First Nations child welfare case

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has pushed back a deadline set for submissions on how compensation should be distributed under its Sept. 6 order that the federal government compensate First Nations children apprehended through the on-reserve child welfare system.

The tribunal changed its Dec. 10 deadline on submissions to Jan. 29, 2020, according to a letter from Judy Dubois, the tribunal’s registry officer, dated Tuesday and shared online by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN were behind the human rights complaint that led to a 2016 ruling that Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding on-reserve child welfare services. The compensation order followed the 2016 ruling.

Ottawa argued before the Federal Court on Monday and Tuesday for a stay — or a pause — of the tribunal’s compensation order until there’s a decision in a judicial review aimed at quashing the order.

The federal government had sent a letter on Nov. 15 to the tribunal requesting the Dec. 10 deadline be moved “to an unspecified date,” however none of the other parties involved in the case agreed to the change, according to the tribunal’s letter.

In a follow-up letter dated Monday, the federal government wrote that it was concerned the Federal Court would not have enough time to rule on the stay before the Dec.10 deadline, said the tribunal’s letter.

Ottawa requested “the tribunal assist the court in allowing it to have sufficient time to rule on the matter,” said the letter.

The letter said the tribunal felt “cornered” and stated it did “not appreciate it.”

“The [tribunal] is disappointed that the [Attorney General of Canada] did not come back to the [tribunal] asking for an extension of the Dec. 10, 2019, date in September or October, even if it was seeking a judicial review of the merits of the ruling,” said the letter.

“The AGC knows that the [tribunal] is flexible…this has happened in the past and Canada is aware of this.”

In its letter, the tribunal went on to criticize the federal government for refusing to engage with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on developing proposals for a mechanism to distribute compensation and identify potential recipients.

“The [tribunal] understands that the other parties have made significant efforts to comply with the tribunal’s deadline and appreciate it greatly,” said the letter.

“However, the [tribunal] wishes that Canada provide input on that work as per the order.”

In an emailed statement, the Office of the Minister of Indigenous Services said “More time to work with our partners will inform a better way forward.”

“Our government strongly agrees that we need to compensate First Nations children harmed by past government policies. We’re seeking a solution that will provide comprehensive, fair and equitable compensation for First Nations children in care. This means engaging in constructive conversations with partners about how to better compensate all affected children.”


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