Child welfare settlement among key agenda items as Assembly of First Nations meets

By The Canadian Press

The Assembly of First Nations annual meeting begins in Montreal today where leaders are expected to provide an update on negotiations to reform Canada’s child welfare system and compensation for the systems’ past harms.

The meeting is the first AFN annual general assembly taking place since Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak was elected national chief in December.

Last month, three regional chiefs representing more than half of First Nations wrote to Woodhouse Nepinak outlining concerns that the AFN is not including First Nations’ leaders in negotiations with Ottawa about reforms being discussed as part of a $43-billion settlement reached with Canada in 2023.

More than half of that money is intended as compensation for about 300,000 children and their families harmed when chronic underfunding of child welfare on reserves meant children were more often placed in foster care than provided support to remain with their families.

The agreement includes $20 billion to help pay for reforms to child welfare including properly funding it.

The AFN refused to put all proposed resolutions on child welfare on the agenda this week because there is a special chiefs’ assembly on child welfare planned for this fall, but the body is expected to provide an update on the reforms and compensation.

The assembly’s annual general assembly will continue until Thursday when federal ministers, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are expected to address chiefs.

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