Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB -
Dougald Lamont and the Manitoba Liberal Party said they would right a historic wrong by returning an estimated $338-million in federal child benefits that the Manitoba Government seized from Indigenous children they were supposed to care for.
On Wednesday, May 18, 2022, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that between 2006 and 2019, the Manitoba Government violated the constitutional rights of Indigenous children who had been taken from their families by seizing their federal child benefits. The number of children affected is in the thousands.
The practice, which started under the NDP in 2008 and continued under the PCs, clawed back every dollar of benefit intended for children from foster families and CFS agencies and put it into general revenue. Cindy Blackstock described the practice as illegal, PC MLA Ian Wishart described it as “immoral and illegal” when the NDP did it, and when the PCs continued it, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine called it “stealing.”
Today, more than half the people who are homeless on the streets of Winnipeg were once wards of CFS. The first five recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are all related to the issue of Indigenous children in care.
“For over a decade, the Manitoba Government took Indigenous children from their families, took their money, and abandoned them on the street. This is a colossal wound that we all need to work to heal, and that other parties cannot even bring themselves to mention,” said Manitoba Liberal Party Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dougald Lamont. “So as long as the silence around this issue continues, these children will be denied justice. As best we can, we need to start making it right. That has to start today.”
Taking the children’s money happened at the same time the Manitoba Government began its “2000s scoop” - when the number of children being seized by CFS soared, with the number of children in care rising from 5500 to over 11,000. According to the Lancet, it was the highest child apprehension rate of any jurisdiction in the world.
While the PCs stopped the practice in 2019, in their 2020 budget the Pallister PCs included a clause that kept all the money, cancelled all current lawsuits, and barred all future court action. The Families Minister at the time was Heather Stefanson.
The Manitoba Liberal Party also committed to reforming CFS to support families and keep them together, while modernizing supports for foster families.