(Ottawa, Unceded Algonquin Territory, Ontario) – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Interim National Chief Joanna Bernard and Manitoba AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse are urging a public apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada regarding historical and systemic injustices in the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) system and the narrow application of Jordan’s Principle.
The Interim National Chief and Manitoba Regional Chief have issued a formal letter to the Prime Minister requesting that the apology be made in public, in the House of Commons, with the Representative Plaintiffs invited to attend to witness firsthand.
This call for a public apology follows years of advocacy behind the legal case of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Assembly of First Nations v. Attorney General of Canada. Following the 2016 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), which found Canada’s practices in the FNCFS system to be “wilful and reckless,” a class action was launched by the AFN and others on behalf of First Nations children, families, and communities harmed by Canada’s discriminatory practices.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s public apology and acknowledgment of the devastating effects the federal child welfare program has had on so many First Nations children and families is not only necessary, but long overdue,” said AFN Interim National Chief Joanna Bernard. “An open apology in the House of Commons would symbolize a step forward in the spirit of reconciliation and healing.”
AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, lead negotiator in the class action lawsuit seeking compensation for First Nations children and families and long-term system reforms, stated, “We have reached a final settlement agreement approved by the CHRT and soon to be presented to the Federal Court of Canada. But this process has been long and arduous, placing a significant strain on Representative Plaintiffs and all waiting First Nations children and families. A public apology from Prime Minister Trudeau to recognize their patience and strength, and acknowledgment for the discriminatory practices that led to this point is crucial for moving forward.”
As the AFN awaits a response, preparations are underway for the Federal Court of Canada hearings on October 23, 2023 during which the Final Settlement Agreement, including more than $23 billion in compensation for over 300,000 children and families, will be presented by the class action parties. A distribution protocol, which will specify eligibility and application procedures for compensation is forthcoming and will be approved by the Federal Court in the near future.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern.
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Senior Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations