Canada’s Federal Court ruled Wednesday that payment of CAN$40,000 each to around 50,000 Indigenous children is not out of line, leaving the government with a bill that totals billions of dollars.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government filed for a judicial review of the compensation, ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2019, which would see children in the on-reserve child welfare system receive the funds because they were discriminated against due to the system being underfunded.
The Liberal government had argued that the tribunal-ordered $40,000 payment was unreasonable. Opposition political parties had hammered Trudeau for taking compensation for Indigenous children to court while on the other hand acknowledging the tribes were historically mistreated dating back to the arrival of Europeans.
"For six years, Justin Trudeau spent millions fighting the rights of Indigenous children and trying to overturn a ruling that found his government guilty of 'willful and reckless' discrimination against vulnerable Indigenous kids," New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Charlie Angus told the Canadian Broadcasting Company. "The court has thrown his case out."
Angus urged Trudeau not to appeal Wednesday's court decision.
He should "immediately end his legal battle against First Nation children."
The dismissal comes the day before the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Sept. 30 is a day set aside by the Trudeau government as a day of reflection on the mistreatment of Indigenous tribes for the past two centuries.
The court case had also been criticized by First Nations leaders and Amnesty International.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations, took the compensation case to the rights tribunal. Like Angus, Blackstock hoped the government would abide by the court finding.
"If they are going to actively litigate against First Nations children and their families from getting justice...then it's time for the public to put the federal government on the right course-correct," Blackstock told the CBC.
The parents, grandparents, or guardians of the children would also be eligible for the compensation as long as the children were not taken into the child welfare system because of abuse.