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

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read