(March 11, 2022) – Indigenous communities and individuals may soon be entitled to compensation from a class-action lawsuit that was settled with the federal government for $8-billion.
In 2019, two Ontario First Nations filed separate lawsuits against the federal government, citing drinking-water advisories on First Nations reserves across the country.
The plaintiffs sought compensation for those who suffered from a lack of reliable access to clean water.
Last July, Ottawa reached a settlement with the First Nations. In December of 2021, an $8-billion agreement was approved by the courts. Of the money to be awarded, there will be $1.5 billion in compensation for individuals deprived of clean drinking water. Six-billion dollars will be set aside to upgrade water infrastructure to help settle ongoing water issues. There will also be the creation of a $400-million First Nation Economic and Cultural Restoration Fund.
First Nations communities could be entitled to $500,000 if they agree to the settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, they will not have to outline how the community was harmed. There is a clause in the settlement that gives Indigenous communities authority over their water systems repairs. A website has also been set up to help people who want to file a claim under the drinking water settlement. A hotline is also available for those needing assistance.
Indigenous leaders have applauded the decision, and say the money will go a long way toward fixing chronic water issues. They warn however, that while the compensation is welcome, money alone can never repair the harm done to communities.
Pope Francis attends a community event near Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit on Friday afternoon. In his speech, the Pope asked forgiveness and referred to the ‘indignation and shame’ he felt about Canada’s residential schools. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
According to the report, among all workers who earned at least $5,000 in 2019, more Indigenous workers (39.2 per cent) than non-Indigenous workers (33.9 per cent) received CERB payments.
“So the evidence is there. You can see the way we are, our behaviours and how we walk through life, the struggles that we had, and the difficulties that we had — difficulties sometimes in learning, difficulties in relating to one another, difficulties in marriage, difficulties with alcohol.”
– Mabel Brown, residential school survivor
“We can forgive, but we’ll never forget what happened, and the pain, we’ll always carry the pain until the day we die.”
– Linda Daniels , residential schoolsurvivor
“We’re trying to find ways to combat diet-related diseases among the people. A lot of us are related to people who have diabetes, hypertension. We want to reach out to more of the people and say, ‘Come buy your food here. It’s right here, locally grown, and this is way better than what we have in the stores.’”
– Ciara Minjarez, educational outreach coordinator
The first signatories to the treaty — members of different nations in North America — put their names on the document in 2014 at the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, with the goal of allowing the free flow of the animals across the international border and restoring the spiritual and cultural connections between bison and Indigenous peoples.