Indigenous advocates in Manitoba say they hope the federal government’s $40-billion agreement in principle to compensate First Nations children taken from their homes on reserve will help bring some healing to those who have suffered pain and trauma.
“No amount of money will be the right amount, nor will it bring back a childhood lost,” Assembly of First Nations Manitoba regional chief Cindy Woodhouse said during a press conference Tuesday.
“But today is about acknowledgment, about being seen and heard.”
Cora Morgan, the First Nations family advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, says while the compensation is an important piece, the acknowledgment of the suffering and trauma inflicted on so many First Nations children is the most significant step toward healing.
“I was encouraged by a lot of things but I also felt really sad because an enormous amount of suffering happened in order to get to this point,” Morgan told Global News.
“There’s been a lot of damage done in the lengthy process. Overall, over 150 years of stolen children in this land and there has to be that broader understanding of having this happen to our people and that it still continues today.”
Morgan said she had concerns over how the settlement will unfold, noting previous flaws in settlements for residential school and 60s Scoop survivors. She also says she still has some unanswered questions surrounding eligibility, particularly for First Nations children taken from their homes off-reserve. The federal government says more details on eligibility and the application process will be worked out in the coming months.
Morgan also noted that children who age out of care are disproportionately represented in the justice system, the homeless population and among those murdered and missing (MMIWG). She says she’s thinking of the many children who have not survived.
“A lot of those people, there’s a good portion of them that didn’t survive,” she said. “The life expectancy of these children in the child welfare system isn’t good. There are high rates of suicide, high rates of homicide, there are all these kinds of reasons. There are so many children that have died in the child welfare system. So of course I feel sad that those who never got to see this day and will never have the acknowledgment or the ability to receive the settlement.”
Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels says the survivors and the families who lost loved ones to the child welfare system were on his mind Tuesday.
“My thoughts are with all of the survivors who have gone through the residential school system, the 60s Scoop, and the current child welfare system and all of the people who have dealt with the trauma and have been able to make it through and those who have not as well – those are where my thoughts are thinking about today,” Daniels said.
“And hopefully this compensation package will create the change that’s necessary and support the families of those who have lived this experience.”