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 Williams Lake Stampede Association will crown a new queen, and potentially a princess, during the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty coronation on Saturday, June 26. Vying for the title are Miss Williams Lake Lions Kennady Dyck (from left), Miss Peterson Contracting Ltd. Karena Sokolan and Miss MH King Excavating Bayley Cail. (Photos submitted)
New Williams Lake Stampede Queen to be crowned June 26

“It was jump in right away all the way,” Wessels said of getting the program up and running

As the province moves to lift some COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Williams Lake will be opening up its city council meetings to the public, beginning June 22. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Public attendance on the agenda once again for Williams Lake city council meetings

Residents will be permitted to attend meetings in person beginning June 22

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society invites residents in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel to participate in “Free Your Things” taking place over the Father’s Day weekend. (Mary Forbes photo)
Cariboo Conservation Society co-ordinating “Free Your Things” Father’s Day weekend

Residents can sign up if they have items they want to give away

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake high school teacher valedictorian for TRU virtual graduation ceremonies

Jonathan Harding is graduating with a master of education degree

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read