The Canadian government on Tuesday announced it had reached an agreement to provide $40 billion CAD ($31.5 billion USD) in compensation to First Nations children who were removed from their families and placed into the welfare system.
"The Government of Canada is pleased to announce that Agreements-in-Principle have been reached on a global resolution related to compensation for those harmed by discriminatory underfunding of First Nations child and family services and to achieve long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services program and Jordan's Principle, to ensure that no child faces discrimination again," Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) said in a statement.
Jordan's Principle is a principle used in Canadian public policy that seeks to ensure that First Nations children have equal access to public services. The Canadian federal government has been criticized in the past for not fully utilizing this principle in practice.
The agreement will provide $20 billion CAD ($15.8 billion USD) for First Nations children "who were removed from their homes between April 1, 1991 and March 31, 2022, and for their parents and caregivers."
Another $20 billion CAD will be spent over the next five years to ensure the "long-term reform of the First Nations Child and Family Services," per the agreement. This money also includes funding to support First Nations adults who aged out of the child welfare system.
The department stated that this decision was made in recognition of the harm that First Nations people experienced due to the Canadian government's discrimination, acknowledging that "no amount of money can reconnect First Nations children and youth with their cultures nor reverse the suffering experienced by First Nations children, youth, their families and communities."
"First Nations leadership and advocates have long pushed the Federal Government to change these discriminatory practices. First Nations children thrive when they can stay with their families, in their communities, surrounded by their culture," Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said.
"No compensation amount can make up for the trauma people have experienced, but these Agreements-in-Principle acknowledge to survivors and their families the harm and pain caused by the discrimination in funding and services," said Hajdu.
In 2021, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered near former residential schools where First Nations children were placed. A survey of the grounds near the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia discovered the remains of over 200 children, according to Canadian outlet CBC.
A few months after this discovery, more than 700 other unmarked graves were discovered near the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, according to the CBC. Though it was unclear if all the graves belonged to First Nations children, oral history in the area had reportedly long spoken about the graves.