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Province settles $530 million class action lawsuits with children in care

The Manitoba government has agreed to pay $530 million in historic class action lawsuits that allege discrimination after the province clawed back hundreds of millions of dollars for children in care.

Three class action lawsuits were filed by more than a dozen CFS agencies for the province’s breach of Charter rights for vulnerable children over its administration of Children’s Special Allowances (CSA) from Child and Family Services Agencies between 2005 and 2019.

According to federal legislation, CSA payments are made to CFS Agencies as an equivalent to the Canada Child Benefit received by parents in Manitoba.

During the civil trial, court heard during a 13-year period, the province took back more than $530 million of the benefits through what lawyers called forced remittance and clawbacks.

“The settlement agreement on the CSA is long overdue,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. Grand Chief Garrison Settee, in a news release.

“Finally, First Nations children in the care of the CFS system who were denied a benefit by the government, will be compensated not just for the loss of benefits they were rightfully entitled to but for the terrible loss of opportunity the CSA was intended to provide.”

Subject to court approval, the $530 million settlement announced Monday aims to compensate affected children, cover legal fees, and administer funds to class members.

According to a news release from Cochrane Saxberg LLP, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, the settlement will compensate every child affected by the CSA policy, including interest and additional money for other damages and costs through the creation of a resolution fund.

“Our government believes that every child matters and this agreement is an important step forward,” said Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine in a news release.

“This money was supposed to be used for the advancement for some of the most vulnerable children in our society, and it was taken from them. This settlement is an example of how our government is prioritizing reconciliation through action.”

– With files from CTV’s Danton Unger

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