From our correspondent
After a year marked by macabre discoveries in an Aboriginal residential school, the Canadian government reached an important agreement with the First Nations on Tuesday, January 4. Forty billion Canadian dollars (27.8 billion euros) will be allocated to this sensitive issue, half composed of a compensation fund open to more than 200,000 First Nations children (and their relatives) separated from their parents in from 1991.
A strong gesture from Ottawa, which recognized that“No amount can compensate for the trauma people have experienced”. According to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), assistance will also be offered to certain people who “Have suffered a delay, refusal or interruption of treatment and medication”, due to less access to care compared to other Canadian children.
The second part of this agreement provides for nearly $ 20 billion (approximately € 14 billion) to reform First Nations children’s services. According to the AFN, the current program contains “A perverse incentive”, because it pushes child protection agencies to take children into care rather than supporting them by leaving them with their families. The forthcoming reform aims to prevent this. It also includes funds to fight poverty and build new infrastructure on reserves. The deal has yet to be approved by two Canadian courts before payments begin.
In recent years, the efforts undertaken by Ottawa for reconciliation with the natives have been repeatedly denigrated by the opposition. The latter castigates a federal double discourse: on the one hand, the government is piling up apologies to the First Nations for the tragedies of the past, on the other, it is fighting them in the courts.
In 2007, the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint against Ottawa, arguing that the federal government was underfunding child protection services in Indigenous communities and that this was discrimination. In 2016, after a long struggle, the courts ruled in favor of the AFN and asked the government to stop its unjust practices.
AFN chief RoseAnne Archibald sees the deal the most “Important settlement in Canadian history”. According to her, thanks to this reform, the members of the First Nations ensure that “Happy children will grow up surrounded by the love and care of their families in safe communities”. The chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, wants to wait before rejoicing. He considers the agreement to be an important ” step forward “, but is concerned about the slow pace of changes made by Canada to immediate aid.
For other voices among the First Nations, this compensation should not make us forget that much remains to be done. The director of social services of the Innu community health center of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Nadine Vollant, remains skeptical: “The amount of compensation is immense, it’s true, but what is the cost of a lost family, language, culture? “