Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trudeau mum on calls to abandon appeals of compensation for First Nations kids

Motion demands that Trudeau’s minority government abandon judicial reviews set for court next week

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sidestepping questions about whether he will adhere to a unanimous motion passed in the House of Commons calling on the federal government to drop its legal battles against a pair of rulings involving First Nations children.

The non-legally binding motion, passed by all five parties in the Commons Monday, was put forward by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

It demands that Trudeau’s minority government abandon the judicial reviews to be heard in Federal Court next week.

When asked a direct question Tuesday about whether he would drop the court cases, Trudeau avoided answering, pointing instead to previous statements he has made saying that the government agrees that First Nations children who suffered harms in the child welfare system deserve compensation.

“We absolutely recognized that from the beginning and we have worked with and will continue to work with communities to establish what is just and fair compensation for these individuals,” Trudeau said.

The NDP motion came in response to the recent news that ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

The motion also asks the government for faster implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, greater trauma resources for survivors and a sit-down with a group representing survivors from St. Anne’s, a former residential school in Fort Albany, Ont., over their search for justice.

It further called for a progress report to be tabled in 10 days detailing government’s work in addressing these demands.

Trudeau, Liberal cabinet members and some Liberal backbenchers abstained from the vote, which passed 271-0.

One of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings being appealed by Ottawa ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 each to some 50,000 First Nations children, as well as to each of their parents or grandparents. The tribunal’s September 2019 ruling found that the federal government “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against Indigenous children living on reserves by not properly funding child and family services.

As a result, children were sent away from their homes, families and reserves because, if they lived off-reserve, they would be covered by better-funded provincial systems. Others were removed from their families because authorities couldn’t provide supports to help keep them together.

The second ruling, which came in November 2020, widened the applicability of Jordan’s Principle, a rule stating that when governments disagree about what level of government responsible for providing services to First Nations children, Ottawa must help a child in need first and argue over the bills later.

The tribunal’s ruling allows for First Nations children living off-reserve without Indian Act status to access Jordan’s Principle if they are recognized by their Nations as eligible.

Last week, Trudeau suggested that compensation should be proportional to the trauma suffered, rather than a blanket amount awarded to all Indigenous kids who suffered harm.

When the issue was raised again in the House of Commons Tuesday, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, like Trudeau, did not say why she abstained from the vote on the NDP motion.

But she did reference Ottawa’s ongoing contention that the legal issues at hand in these cases are complicated — more so than can be solved by a motion, she said.

“(The motion) included aspects on complex legal matters involving jurisdiction and privacy rights, which require extensive collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and cannot, nor should they be, resolved unilaterally on the floor of the Parliament of Canada, in a non-binding motion,” Bennett said during question period.

But Singh dismissed this argument, saying Indigenous children harmed by foster care and child welfare agency placements, many of whom are now adults, as well as residential school survivors and their families are feeling “betrayed and insulted” by the Liberal government’s handling of these cases.

“By refusing to even show up and vote on the motion, Justin Trudeau is confirming that he will continue to fight the residential school survivors and Indigenous kids in courts. This is wrong,” Singh said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

“Indigenous people are demanding real action to bring about genuine reconciliation, not just words and symbolic gestures … We will continue to push the Liberal government to uphold their rights.”

—Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Motion passes urging feds drop court actions on rulings regarding First Nations kids

IndigenousJustin Trudeau

Just Posted

The City of Terrace is setting up a town hall meeting to address the ‘crisis’ in the downtown area. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace council declares crisis in downtown

City staff are in the process of setting up town hall meeting

Terrace RCMP responded to 231 calls from June 7 through June 13, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Assault with a weapon, man climbing building among Terrace RCMP calls last week

Police responded to over 230 calls from June 7 to June 13, 2021

James Nathan Roberts, 38, was found dead May 15 by a Terrace RCMP officer patrolling the woods between the curling rink and the train tracks. Police are asking the public to come forward with any information. (Submitted photo)
Terrace police renews assistance plea a year into homicide investigation

Investigation began after James Roberts’ body was found in May 2020

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
VIDEO: Highlights of Terrace’s inland port public hearing

Council gave third reading to two zoning amendments on June 14

San Group owners Suki, left, and Kamal Sanghera with technical manager Richard Zeller at their facility in Port Alberni in Feb. 2021. The forestry company is looking at expanding its business into northwest B.C. by setting up a manufacturing unit in Terrace. (SUSAN QUINN/ Black Press file photo)
Forestry company San Group eyes Terrace for northwest B.C expansion

The company looks at Skeena Industrial Park to set up a sawmill manufacturing unit

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Himalayan Life helped finance the construction of Nepal’s Yangri Academic Centre and dormitories after a 2015 earthquake devastated the valley, killing more than 9,000 people. (Screen grab/Peter Schaeublin)
B.C. charity founder pledges to rebuild Nepalese school swept away by flash floods

Six years after an earthquake killed more than 9,000 people, Nepal faces another catastrophy

Most Read