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Details of the draft final settlement were revealed in closed session at the AFN meeting

Posted: 10 minutes ago

National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak delivers her opening remarks at the annual general meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Montreal on Tuesday. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)

The federal government’s bid to complete First Nations child and family services reform is worth $47 billion over 10 years, a source involved in the negotiations told CBC News.

Two other sources, who were present at a closed-door session Tuesday afternoon at the Assembly of First Nations’ annual general meeting in Montreal, also said the proposed deal is worth more than $45 billion.

CBC News is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to discuss confidential regulatory discussions or closed-door proceedings.

AFN national chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak disclosed the existence of the offer in her opening address to delegates on Tuesday morning and called it a “fair offer” but gave no details.

A spokesperson for the national chief would not comment on the reported value of the offer, nor would Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

In a statement, the ISC indicated that a final agreement had not yet been reached.

“Reaching an agreement with First Nations parties would represent a major milestone in the long-term reform of the program and advance our ongoing commitment to ensure that discrimination ends,” wrote ISC spokesperson Anispiragas Piragasanathar .

The offer would complete a $20 billion five-year agreement in principle that was concluded in 2021. A separate but related deal to compensate survivors of the chronically underfunded child welfare system on reserve and in the Yukon a was also concluded in 2022 and subsequently approved at $23 billion.

The two agreements together form an umbrella settlement aimed at resolving a long-running complaint at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal brought by Cindy Blackstock and the AFN in 2007.

The complaint, which the tribunal upheld in 2016, argued that the underfunding of child and family services amounted to systemic racial discrimination. The tribunal ordered Canada to pay each victim and family members $40,000, the maximum amount allowed under human rights law, to compensate them for their pain and suffering.

Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, said Tuesday that some projections estimate the reform deal could cost $51 billion on the low end and $57 billion on the high end.

Issues surrounding the implementation of the Jordan Principle, a program that ensures First Nations children have access to essential health products and services without delays related to jurisdictional disputes, remain unresolved before the human rights tribunal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brett Forester is a reporter for CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas First Nation of Kettle and Stony Point in southern Ontario, who previously worked as a journalist for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

With files from Ka’nhehsĂ­:io Deer