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Ottawa could be facing human rights tribunal hearing to settle First Nations child welfare compensation

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The federal government could be headed back before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to settle an outstanding question on compensation for First Nations children who faced discrimination under the on-reserve child welfare system.

When the human rights tribunal first ruled in January 2016 that Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding on-reserve services, it reserved its decision on the issue of compensation to allow the parties to come to a settlement.

Last Friday, hours after Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announced upcoming legislation on Indigenous child welfare, Justice Canada lawyer Robert Frater wrote the tribunal to secure hearing dates for possible arguments on the compensation issue.

Frater said in the letter that officials on the file had still not received a mandate on how to proceed on compensation.

« We remain committed to discussing the compensation issue with the parties, and attempting to reach a resolution, » said Frater’s letter.

« But in view of the fact that we have not yet received final instructions, it is apparent that we will likely have to set the issue down for argument. »

Minister wants a negotiated settlement

The window is closing on settling the issue outside of another round of hearings before the tribunal. The tribunal is facing the end of its oversight powers on the issue next March.

The tribunal also ordered Canada to implement Jordan’s Principle, ensuring jurisdictional conflicts between Ottawa and the provinces don’t hinder delivery of services to First Nations children. Families affected by Ottawa’s failure to follow Jordan’s Principle before the ruling could also be eligible for compensation.

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott faced questions from chiefs Wednesday about the issue following her speech to the Assembly of First Nations, which is holding its annual December meeting this week at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.

Cindy Blackstock, who heads the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, holds her Spirit Bear while speaking to reporters during the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Ottawa. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

She told chiefs that she wants settle the issue through talks.

« I have been very clear that I want to resolve all issues related to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and I want to resolve those directly by working with the parties, » Philpott told reporters following her speech.

Philpott said she would rather deal with the compensation issue outside the tribunal process.

« As soon as the parties to the tribunal are happy to drop that legal mechanism and to work with us directly, we will be extremely happy to do so, » Philpott said.

Philpott said she did not see the letter before it was sent.

A spokesperson for Philpott’s office said the letter does not preclude « other mechanisms from moving forward » and there is still hope a resolution can be reached outside the tribunal process.

John Cutfeet, chair of the Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority, said there seems to be conflicting messages coming from the ministers and their officials.

« The minister is saying, ‘We don’t want to go there.’ She wants to work it out, » said Cutfeet. « But why hasn’t she provided direction to Justice Canada to say this is how we are going to do this? »

Compensation could be in the billions of dollars

Cindy Blackstock, who heads the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and led the human rights complaint, said the compensation issue has been on the table for months.

Blackstock said her organization filed questions on the issue in the summer and that Ottawa filed the Nov. 30 letter at the deadline set for its response.

« Canada seems to have changed its position about litigating the compensation that is owed the children who were affected by the human rights tribunal, » said Blackstock.

Drummers at the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Ottawa this week take a break during proceedings. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

Blackstock said if Canada wants to go back before the tribunal to argue the issue again, she is prepared for another round.

« If there is a rights breach, or if Canada is not prepared to fulfil its responsibility, then for us as the Caring Society, we are prepared to litigate. »

Blackstock said she wants affected children and families to get the maximum amount available under federal human rights legislation — $20,000 for discrimination, plus an additional $20,000 if the discrimination was done willfully or recklessly.

The overall compensation amount could hit at least an estimated $1.5 billion, said Blackstock.

There were, on average, between 8,500 and 10,000 on-reserve First Nations children in care between 2006 and 2018.

It remains unclear how many families and children were affected by the government’s failure to implement Jordan’s Principle before the ruling.

According to Indigenous Services figures, there were more than 165,000 requests for products, services and supports approved for First Nations children post-ruling between July 2016 and September 2018.



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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