A $1 billion class-action lawsuit has been filed in the Court of King’s Bench against the Government of Manitoba and the Attorney General of Canada related to the child welfare system in Manitoba.
The suit has been filed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the First Nations Family Advocate Office, alleging the system failed the children, their families and their First Nations.
“Before colonization, it would be unthinkable to remove a child from their family, nation, lands and culture. The lawsuit is necessary to hold governments accountable for the harm they have caused for decades,” said Cornell McLean, the deputy Grand Chief of the AMC.
Cora Morgan is the First Nations Family Advocate with the AMC and she said since she took the role seven years ago, the consistent message she has heard is the system is breaking the bond between mother and child.
“We work to repair the harms of the child welfare system. We work to reunite families. We have been successful at reuniting or preventing the apprehension of over 4,300 children. However, there are still more children in the system. There is so much damage that has been done that we cannot undo,” said Morgan.
She said the outcomes for children in care include homelessness, incarceration and mental health issues, negative aspects she says most Canadians don’t have to deal with.
“This is very important that we are taking these steps because it’s finally giving a voice to those youth and to those parents and to our nations. Because our most vulnerable citizens have been stolen for decades, arguably over 150 years we’ve had the issue of stolen children in this land.”
Morgan said in this age of reconciliation, there needs to be accountability and the systems should have been fixed a long time ago, adding no more damage can be done.
The legal team for the lawsuit said there are over 11,000 children in the child and family services system and of those children, approximately 80 per cent are First Nations. They added that 61 per cent of children in the northern authority and 75 per cent of children in the southern authority were taken into the system off-reserve, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.
This move comes after the federal government settled two class-action cases related to the child welfare system with the Assembly of First Nations that totalled $20 billion.
CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the Manitoba government and the Attorney General of Canada for comment.
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