Fast protests bid to block kids-in-care lawsuit

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The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and office of the First Nations family advocate are engaged in an ongoing fast outside the Manitoba legislature, protesting a clause in the PC government’s proposed Budget Implementation Tax Statutes Act.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/10/2020 (851 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and office of the First Nations family advocate are engaged in an ongoing fast outside the Manitoba legislature, protesting a clause in the PC government’s proposed Budget Implementation Tax Statutes Act.

At a news conference on the steps of the legislative building Wednesday, AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, joined by representatives from the NDP and Liberal party, denounced section 84 of Bill 34 — which would allow the Manitoba government legal protection against a $338-million lawsuit filed on behalf of First Nations children in care.

From 2005 to 2019, the provincial government clawed back the Children’s Special Allowance (CSA), a tax benefit equal to the Canada Child Benefit and Child Disability Benefit payments, intended to provide financial support to children in care, Dumas said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas during an announcement that the AMC and First Nations Family Advocate Office are going to hold an ongoing relay fast outside the Manitoba Legislature to oppose section 84 of Bill 34.

The practice ended in 2019, Dumas said, but children in care are “still not accessing the proper supports available.”

“Since being elected, the Pallister government has continued this immoral practice of capturing CSA funds that were intended for the care, maintenance, education, training and advancement of First Nations children in care off-reserve,” he added.

The lawsuit, filed in 2018, seeks to recover $338 million.

Section 84 of Bill 34 removes the right to sue the province over the clawbacks, and eliminates the province’s liability to children both retroactively and in the future, Dumas said. Should the bill pass without amendment, the class-action suit would be dismissed, he said

“The Manitoba government is denying First Nations children access to the courts and the justice system… the Manitoba government is seeking to bypass the courts and justify the theft of CSA from First Nations children,” Dumas said. “Our children have been deeply impacted by this and have suffered enough.”

Later, as the legislative assembly entered its third session Wednesday afternoon, Dumas stepped into a teepee erected on the legislature’s front lawn to begin a continuous fast relay, during which two people at a time will fast for 24 hours each until a decision is made on Bill 34.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew, along with members of the NDP and Liberal caucuses, issued a public call to action in an effort to axe section 84.

The NDP had previously delayed Bill 34, in order to leave time for the public to weigh in, Kinew said.

“It’s about more than just the money,” he said. “This is about a generation of kids who are growing up in the system and didn’t have access to all those additional resources and opportunities simply because governments in Manitoba wanted to balance their budgets on the backs of these children.”

The Manitoba government reports, as of March 31, there are 9,879 children in the care of Child and Family Services.

However, a spokesperson for the NDP caucus told the Free Press the NDP and Manitoba’s auditor general believe those numbers to be unreliable. Due to remote internet access in northern communities and the workload placed on case managers, accurate recording of CFS cases is difficult, the spokesperson said.

The vast majority of those children in care are Indigenous.

julia-simone.rutgers@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers
Reporter

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.

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