Canada reaches a historic deal to compensate Indigenous children
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A big decision in Canada - the government there has agreed to pay more than $30 billion to compensate Indigenous children who were taken from their families and placed into the child welfare system. The money will also be used to improve child and family services on reserves of Indigenous First Nations. Emma Jacobs reports on the repercussions.
EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: The agreement will resolve legal challenges going back more than a decade that allege Canada has underfunded child services in Indigenous First Nations. Cindy Blackstock is executive director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, which brought these concerns before Canada's Human Rights Tribunal.
CINDY BLACKSTOCK: We wanted this type of apartheid service delivery to stop.
JACOBS: The tribunal found that Canada's inadequate support for child welfare programs in First Nations communities led to government agencies sending kids to other areas with more resources. Blackstock says First Nations children are 17 times more likely to end up in foster care. The settlement funds will go towards compensating tens or even hundreds of thousands of children who were either removed from their families or unable to access needed support. It will also go to improving services for Indigenous children and families where they live.
Canada's Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller Tuesday called the settlement the largest in Canadian history.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MARC MILLER: The agreements in principle we have signed today will support First Nations children so that they can have the same opportunities to grow up with their families and communities thriving through their cultures.
JACOBS: But this is a preliminary agreement. Details of how the money will get distributed still need to be worked out, and Blackstock said that implementation will be key.
BLACKSTOCK: Public pressure and litigation and all of us paying attention has made a world of difference, but these are simply words on paper.
JACOBS: It is not time to look away, she continued, until she hears from children in Indigenous communities that their life today is better than it was yesterday.
For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Montreal.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE ACORN'S "BETTER LATE THAN NEVER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.