Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government is fighting the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling that Ottawa compensate First Nations children taken from their families under the On-Reserve Child Welfare System. Two weeks before the election.
While I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Trudeau has no plans of compensating these kids and their families, I was initially stunned that he did this during an election campaign. After all, campaigning like caring progressives and then turning your back on most of those who need your help when elected is pretty much the Liberal playbook.
Then I realized that October 7th, today, was a hard deadline for appealing the ruling. So platitudes about how we need to right this wrong without a direct commitment to respect the ruling during the campaign followed by a quick court challenge after winning re-election wasn’t an option this time. The tribunal had forced him to play his cards when some voting cards were still in the mail.
In case you’re wondering what all of this is about, I’ll do my best to summarize:
The Federal Government disproportionately underfunded child welfare for children living on reserves as well as the reserves themselves. They then used the poor living conditions they created as an excuse to rip children away from their families and place them in foster care.
Basically, this was the forced assimilation of, and in some cases abuse of, native children ordered by the Government of Canada. Kinda like Residential Schools without the Jesus.
It Needs To Be Expensive
The tribunal determined that Canada owed each kid and some elder caregivers $40 000. That’s over $2 billion in total.
Sure, that’s a substantial amount of money and some will argue that it’s way too much to spend on righting a wrong of the past. They’re wrong on two counts:
First, this program started in 2006, so it’s very much a wrong of the present. Some of the victims aren’t even adults yet.
Second, and most important, it needs to be expensive. While no amount can properly compensate for the lost childhoods, a hefty price tag may make it more difficult for future governments to pull off the same thing or something similar.
The Government of Canada has been systemically repressing First Nations people ever since there was a Government of Canada. For about as long, well meaning descendants of white European settlers (aka mainstream Canadian voters) have been appalled at what the government did, but only after the fact.
If we make turning a blind eye to this gross injustice while it is happening prohibitively expensive, I suspect a good number of “Canadian taxpayers” might let their desire to avoid another $2 billion dollar fine fuel their moral outrage enough to stop the government from carrying out another racist attack on the First Nations or at least try to before it becomes another crime of the past we are so sorry about.
The Politics of it All
Justin Trudeau would rather that not happen. He’d love to talk reconciliation, get elected, and then deny the First Nations’ kids what we owe them. The Human Rights Tribunal made that impossible.
Andrew Scheer said, well, exactly what you would expect him to say. He’d fight the tribunal’s decision, too.
Both NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May said they will respect the compensation the tribunal determined.
Indigenous issues are among the main topics in tonight’s English Leaders’ Debate, so I look forward to our current PM getting challenged on this, as he should be.
Featured Image: A painting of Justin Trudeau by Samantha Gold