There appears to be a major breakthrough in a long-running dispute between Ottawa and Canada’s Indigenious peoples.
The federal government on Thursday consented to the certification of two class action lawsuits over funding for First Nations child welfare services and the state of health services for children on-reserve and in the Yukon.
The consent came after legal teams for the parties appeared for a special sitting before the Federal Court in Ottawa and agreed to mediation to try to resolve claims of the class actions–which are proceeding together–through negotiations.
One lawsuit–seeking $10 billion in damages–was filed in January by the Assembly of First Nations on behalf of former First Nation foster children.
The suit claims that by shortchanging services for Indigenous children, the federal government created an incentive to remove them from their homes and place them in foster care as the “first — not the last — resort.”
It seeks $6 billion in damages on behalf of former foster child Xavier Moushoom of La Nation Anishnabe du Lac Simon, Que., and Jeremy Meawasige of Pictou Landing First Nation in Nova Scotia. Meawasige was born with cerebral palsy, spinal curvature and autism.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Justice Minister David Lametti said Thursday the parties are in agreement on the certification of the claims put forward.
“We are making progress in negotiations,” they said in a statement.
“In order to obtain a prompt resolution, parties have agreed to commence mediation as soon as possible upon appointment of a mutually acceptable mediator.”
AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde said Thursday he welcomed Ottawa’s decision.
“Systemic discrimination against First Nations children is abhorrent,” Mr. Bellegarde said in a statement after the proceedings.
“Canada’s decision to work with the AFN and its allies in addressing this tragedy is an important step.”
With files from CBC News