By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - The Canadian government said Wednesday it will renegotiate a CAN$20 billion ($14.7 billion) settlement with Indigenous people adversely affected by the First Nations welfare system.
"Intense confidential discussions will begin Feb. 7," said federal officials.
The proposed compensation package was rejected by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal one year ago.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government want to preserve the agreement with the Assembly of First Nations. The money is compensation for First Nations families and children hurt by a lack of sufficient funding to run child welfare and other family services on Indian reserves.
The tribunal that ruled in 2016 that the welfare and health care systems on reserves discriminated against First Nations, said the original settlement did not properly compensate some victims.
The tribunal also charged that the government and the Assembly of First Nations deceived the public by leaving out victims and reducing payments to others. About 300,000 people are eligible for compensation.
Two Cabinet ministers, Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu and Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, said the government is determined to reach an acceptable agreement.
"This is a historic, First Nations-led $20-billion agreement, and we'll continue to work together with the parties to deliver compensation to those who are entitled to it," the pair said in a statement to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada's state broadcaster. There was no mention of adding compensation to the money pot.
But Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society that will be at the negotiating table along with Assembly of First Nations representatives and class action lawyers, said more money will be demanded.
"We're going to build on the good parts of that final settlement agreement, but make it better by making sure that no one sees their compensation go away or be reduced," she said. "They can put more money on the table."