A $20 billion step towards reconciliation


On July 4th 2022, First Nation children established the largest class action settlement in Canadian history. After years of mistreatment, systemic racial discrimination, and wilful disregard, First Nations children and their families will begin to receive justice.

The Canadian government signed a $20 billion final settlement, promising compensation for First Nations children and families harmed by Canada’s discriminatory child welfare system.

The agreement also includes money for long-term reform of the on-reserve child welfare system, however, talks are still in progress. This is the largest settlement amount to date and is essential progress towards justice, equality, and dignity for First Nations children and families.

This monumental milestone is three decades in the making, after sustained and relentless advocacy and negotiations. In 2007, the First Nations Children and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed the initial complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Their complaint was that on-reserve child welfare services were underfunded, which was discriminatory in comparison to the same services to children in other communities.

First Nations children and families are disproportionately involved in the child and family services (CFS) system, with more than 40,000 First Nations children in care, yet for decades services have been severely underfunded.

Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, said in a statement about the recent settlement, “First Nations children deserve to be surrounded by love and live free of discriminatory government policy.”

As a child’s rights organization, we recognize that not all children’s rights are equal in Canada, with those most deprived of their rights being children from First Nation, Inuit, and Metis communities. When children cannot exercise their rights equally, the consequences include lack of safe housing, lack of access to quality education, inadequate healthcare, and abuse, to name a few.

The National Reconciliation Program (NRP) at Save the Children was established in 2016 to reconcile our own history of inaction and to make our contributions to Truth and Reconciliation. The NRP specifically focuses on protecting and promoting the rights of Indigenous children through a rights-based approach to reconciliation.

Next Steps

The recent settlement, however, does fall short since it fails to include Inuit and Métis children, as well as children living off-reserve. Current data reveals that the majority of Indigenous children apprehended and placed into government care are indeed off-reserve Indigenous children.

In 2020 Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, likened the current state of Indigenous children in the child welfare system to the horrific legacy of residential schools.

“Canada has apologized for residential schools, but it has continued the same policies under a different name,” said Blackstock.

Though this settlement is a welcome and necessary step in the right direction, Canada must continue this work, making concrete commitments to finally reforming the broken system that is child welfare both on- and off-reserve, while enabling Indigenous communities to manage their own structures and systems.



Federal Court approves class action on behalf of off-reserve Indigenous children (aptnnews.ca))

$20B settlement for First Nations children approved | CTV News

Canada sets $15B deal over Indigeneous child welfare flaws – ABC News (go.com)