A woman and child walk down a street in the northern Ontario First Nations reserve in Attawapiskat, Ont., on Monday, April 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Jordan’s Principle order may cost feds $15 billion in compensation, PBO says

Jordan’s Principle order may cost feds $15 billion in compensation, PBO says

OTTAWA — The parliamentary budget office says it could cost the federal government up to $15 billion to compensate First Nations families and children impacted by the child welfare system, as well as denials or delays of essential services.

The figure updates the budget office’s initial estimate to include thousands more children, parents and grandparents who would qualify for the $40,000 payments under recent developments in the case.

Jordan’s Principle requires governments to cover the cost of services for First Nations children, and work out any disputes over jurisdiction afterwards.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered the government to compensate children and families who had been denied service, or faced delays.

The updated report adds roughly 100,000 more First Nations children, along with their parents and grandparents, whose compensation would alone be about $10 billion.

The new estimate of about $15 billion includes the 13,000 children originally expected to be eligible for compensation, mostly related to delayed approval of claims, as well as those taken into care unnecessarily, and their families.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said the high cost of compensating First Nations children and families is a result of the government’s refusal to negotiate a solution with them after the human rights tribunal found Canada guilty of systemic discriminations against Indigenous children in 2016.

Angus said the new report shows that the cost would have been between $2.2 billion and $4.5 billion if the government began negotiating in good faith.

“The real cost has been paid in the lives of Indigenous children on reserves across this country,” Angus said Tuesday.

The tribunal ordered the government in September 2019 to pay $40,000 to every First Nations child who since 2006 was inappropriately removed from their home, and pay the same amount to their parents or caregiver.

The same amount, which is the maximum the tribunal can award, was also ordered for children who faced denials or delays of basic services like medical care.

At the time, the Assembly of First Nations estimated that 54,000 children and their parents could receive compensation, for a bill of at least $2 billion.

Budget officer Yves Giroux’s report pegs those figures far higher, but warns estimates are uncertain because of data limitations.

In November, a tribunal ruling expanded the scope of its order to allow First Nations to decide whether a particular child is entitled to federally funded services, not just the federal government under the Indian Act.

Ottawa announced before Christmas it would seek a judicial review of the decision.

Angus said the government has used numerous arguments against the tribunal’s rulings that ensure justice for Indigenous children.

“They’ve used jurisdiction. They’ve attacked the Human Rights Tribunal. They said that the costs would be outrageously high,” he said.

“The Human Rights Tribunal ruling is a watershed moment in Canadian history, and there’s no going back from that.”

A spokeswoman for Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the department is committed to “move quickly” to compensate First Nations children and families harmed by the underfunding of child and family services in the past.

“We are also firmly committed to undertaking the work necessary to reform Child and Family Services in Canada to ensure that the best interest of the child prevails and that this new system is one that respects First Nations’ right to self-determination,” Vanessa Adams said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Adams said the department is working with First Nations partners, provinces, and territories to reform to guarantee full implementation of Jordan’s Principle.

The recent developments flow back to a 2016 ruling from the tribunal that found the federal government at fault for not providing funding on-reserve for child welfare services equal to provincial payments for those living in urban and rural settings.

The government subsequently broadened its definition of Jordan’s Principle, named for Jordan River Anderson, a boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. He spent five years in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments argued over which level of government needed to pay for his care in a special home.

The PBO report notes that more than 594,000 claims under Jordan’s Principle were approved between July 2016 and April 2020.

Crunching the numbers, the budget office said that amounts to one claim per person for each of the approximately 375,000 First Nations children living on- and off-reserve, as well as those who became adults over that almost four-year period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jordan Press and Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

PBO Forecast

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

New York Red Bulls midfielder Jared Stroud, right, vies for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, NJ., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Entering his ninth season with Toronto FC, Jonathan Osorio said his off-season regimen was no different than in the past. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes the save on Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) as Tyson Barrie (22) defends during third period NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Toronto continues to lead the North Division standings, but hard-charging Edmonton is now just four points back on the all-Canadian circuit heading into a three-game series between the teams in Alberta's capital beginning Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Angela James stands on centre ice in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs team after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday November 6, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to center Aron Baynes (46) and guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Team Ontario skip Rachel Homan, centre, makes a shot against Team Wild Card 1 as second Sarah Wilkes, left, and lead Joanne Courtney sweep at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Ontario's Rachel Homan kicked off play in the championship pool Friday with a 7-6 victory over Chelsea Carey of Team Wild Card One at the Canadian women's curling playdowns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Homan and Einarson improve to 8-1 at Canadian women’s curling championship

Homan and Einarson improve to 8-1 at Canadian women’s curling championship

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
New vaccine brings optimism amid rising threat of variants, high case counts

New vaccine brings optimism amid rising threat of variants, high case counts

Most Read