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AFN Bulletin: Agreements-in-Principle on Compensation and Long-Term Reform related to Child and Family Services and Jordan’s Principle

on January 4, 2022

SUMMARY: 

  • On December 31, 2021, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Government of Canada and other parties signed two Agreements-in-Principle (AIPs) outlining a framework toward reaching a global settlement to end discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and Jordan’s Principle.
  • The total settlement package is valued at $40 billion. This includes a total of $20 billion that will be made available to compensate First Nations children and families impacted by the federal government’s discriminatory funding practices and $19.807 billion for fundamental reform to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle to ensure the discriminatory aspects of these programs and that such discrimination does not recur in the future.
  • The AIPs will be made available to Chiefs and First Nations in coming days on a settlement privileged (confidential) basis.
  • Over the next few months, the AFN, the Government of Canada and others will work toward a full compensation package in a final settlement agreement. The final settlement agreement will contain provisions on eligibility for compensation and the application process.
  • Work toward long-term reform will include AFN-facilitated engagement sessions with regions. Engagement with First Nations will guide our negotiations with the federal government to ensure the reformed program is relevant and responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families across the country.
  • Once a final settlement agreement is completed on long-term reform, it will be shared with AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly for discussion and decision, by the Annual General Assembly in July 2022.

The AFN is sharing with First Nations details on two Agreements-in-Principle (AIPs) on compensation and reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and Jordan’s Principle in a total global settlement package valued at $40 billion. On December 31, 2021, the AFN, the Government of Canada and other parties signed one AIP on compensation and one AIP on reform aimed at ending discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program and Jordan’s Principle.

The compensation AIP proposes a settlement of $20 billion in compensation to First Nations children and families impacted by discrimination through the FNCFS Program and the improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle. The compensation acknowledges that too many First Nations children were unnecessarily apprehended from their parents and communities and suffered harms that include abuse, the loss of language, culture and attachment to their families. In addition, compensation will be made available to certain individuals who were subjected to a delay, denial or disruption of services, supports, treatment and products as a result of the federal government’s narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.

The long-term reform AIP outlines a framework to correct the many discriminatory aspects of the FNCFS program and Jordan’s Principle. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the current program contains a perverse incentive for child welfare agencies to apprehend children. Specifically, a child welfare agency would not be reimbursed for expenses incurred to provide services, unless the child was removed from their home and placed into state care. The federal government’s narrow implementation of Jordan’s Principle resulted in First Nation children being denied medical and other services which, in some cases, forced parents to place their children into care. The AIP on long-term reform will result in the elimination of these structural problems.

The Government of Canada has committed $19.807 billion to overhaul the current FNCFS Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle. Reforms to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle will require a complete overhaul of how child protection and least-disruptive measures are delivered in First Nations. The AFN will hold a number of engagement sessions in the coming year with First Nations to discuss the suite of reforms required. These sessions will guide our negotiations with the federal government to ensure the reformed program is relevant and responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families across Canada.

The two AIPs will be made available to Chiefs and First Nations in coming days.

Over the next few months, the AFN, the Government of Canada and others will work towards a full compensation package in a final settlement agreement. The final settlement agreement will contain provisions on eligibility for compensation and the application process. The AFN and the Government of Canada will seek the approval of the Federal Court of Canada before compensation can be released. The AFN will provide information to First Nations on this process over the next few months.  The AFN will not have a role in the claims and payment process – it will be an independent third party.

Details of the distribution of the compensation will be determined in the Final Settlement Agreement, with the input of the AFN.

Once a final settlement agreement on long-term reform is completed, it will be shared with AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly for review and approval, likely by the Annual General Assembly in July 2022.

The AFN acknowledges there will be many questions from First Nations regarding the process for compensation. These details will be provided in the coming months and will be included in the Final Settlement Agreement. The AFN has established an information desk to assist individuals who may have questions on the compensation and long-term reform packages.

For more information please contact [email protected]

The Hope for Wellness Help Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to anyone in need of immediate mental health support. Call toll-free at 1-855-242-3310.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How many people will be eligible for compensation?

The precise number is not yet known. However, as part of this process, independent third-party experts estimated that over 200,000 First Nations children, youth and caregivers were impacted by Canada’s discrimination in the First Nations Child and Family Services Program and Jordan’s Principle, and would therefore be eligible for compensation.

In addition to compensation, all First Nations children and families will benefit from a reformed family and child services system.

2.  How can people apply for compensation?

Details on eligibility and the application process are still being determined and will be shared once a final settlement agreement is reached.

3.  How much will each person receive?

The total amount of $20 billion for compensation and $19.807 billion for long term system reform comes under the two Agreements-in-Principle.

The next step is to negotiate the Final Settlement Agreement by Spring 2022. From there the eligibility and compensation amounts will be determined, which will then be approved by the courts. A lot of work needs to be conducted before the amounts for individual compensation are released, including reviewing data on children in care and Jordan’s Principle since 1991.

The AFN will be setting up a help desk to answer questions and provide guidance as the process unfolds.

4.  How soon will people begin to receive compensation? Will it be this year?

The AFN and other parties are working hard to get the compensation distributed by the end of 2022 or early 2023. First, the parties will need to negotiate the details of the Final Settlement Agreement. Following that will be a Notice of Certification of the settlement and the approval hearing.

5.  Where can people find out more information?

First Nations who want more information can email [email protected] or go to www.afn.ca.

First Nations Child and Family Services System Reform

6.  How will the $19.807 billion for system reform be allocated?

The Reformed Child and Family Services Funding Approach will provide funding for:

  • National baseline funding for child and family services, which is the actual cost of a child in care.
  • Top-up funding for prevention, information technology, results, emergency funds, poverty, remoteness and geography, capital asset replacement, capital maintenance and recapitalization. These funds will support First Nations to have what they need to deliver the programs and services for children and families that they wish to.
  • A National First Nations Secretariat to provide technical, operational and data support to First Nations and Agencies.
  • First Nations Representative Services to ensure that child and family services are culturally appropriate and meet the needs of First Nations.
  • Major Capital Infrastructure to ensure First Nations have the facilities needed to deliver services, in alignment with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s order on capital (2021 CHRT 41).

7.  When will people start to see a different First Nations Child and Family Services Program?

There is commitment from the AFN and the Government of Canada to move ahead as quickly as possible. The AFN is seeking a system that is based on wellbeing outcomes and focused on prevention.

Some elements of the Agreement-in-Principle and the funding related to system reform may begin rolling out this year, such as supports to assist parents that will keep a child in the home, and extending the age-out of the program to 25 by April 2022. Other reforms will take more time to design and implement.

8.  The announcement is for $40 billion. Where’s the balance of the funds for reform going?

Indigenous Services Canada’s administration costs will be covered by the balance.

 

 

Angie TurnerAFN Bulletin: Agreements-in-Principle on Compensation and Long-Term Reform related to Child and Family Services and Jordan’s Principle