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Indigenous rights activits mark National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

People listen to speakers during the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 30, 2021. (Photo:Lars Hagberg / AFP via Getty Images)

As Canada Honors Indigenous Children, Judge Rejects Trudeau Challenge to Compensation

"Mr. Trudeau's government should end the legal battle, address the systemic underfunding and chronic denial of services to Indigenous children, and take clear steps towards truth, justice, and reconciliation," said New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh.

Julia Conley

As Canada marked its first-ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday to honor the victims and survivors of brutal anti-Indigenous policies, rights advocates celebrated a major Federal Court ruling in favor of tens of thousands of Indigenous people who were taken from their families in recent decades.
 
The court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government, in which the administration sought a judicial review of a 2019 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that awarded billions of dollars to an estimated 54,000 Indigenous people who were affected by the underfunding of children's and family services.
 
The government's decision to "willfully and recklessly" underfund the services resulted in tens of thousands of Indigenous children being forcibly removed from their families and placed in foster care.
 
The Tribunal ordered Trudeau's government to pay about $31,000 to each Indigenous child affected by the policy. On Wednesday, the Federal Court ruled that the government had "not succeeded in establishing that the compensation decision is unreasonable."
 
"No one can seriously doubt that First Nations people are among the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of Canadian society," Justice Paul Favel said in the ruling. "The Tribunal was aware of this and reasonably attempted to remedy the discrimination while being attentive to the very different positions of the parties."
 
The decision marked "a victory for Indigenous children," tweeted Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada's left-wing New Democratic Party.
 
 
"Mr. Trudeau's government should end the legal battle, address the systemic underfunding and chronic denial of services to Indigenous children, and take clear steps towards truth, justice, and reconciliation," Singh wrote.
 
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, told the Washington Post that judging by the federal government's "past behavior...they will appeal" the decision.
 
As the country marked its first-ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Blackstock urged Canadians to call on the government "to not appeal, to drop the litigation, to finally treat First Nations children equitably. It's the number one call to action."
 
 
The new holiday was held on Orange Shirt Day, when Canadians honor First Nations people. The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was established to commemorate the victims and survivors of the country's residential school system, in which more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend schools where many faced neglect and physical and sexual abuse. A estimated 10,000 children died at the schools, the last of which remained open until 1996.
 
The holiday was codified earlier this year after hundreds of Indigenous children's remains were found at some of the former schools.
 
Events were held across the country on Thursday to commemorate the children and reflect on Canada's treatment of First Nations people.
 
 
Blackstock expressed a wish that "we together can raise a generation of First Nations children...who never have to recover from their childhoods and a generation of non-Indigenous children who don't have to say they're sorry."
 
"That means that we wear the orange shirt today, we learn today, but we act the other 364 days of the year," she said.

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