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OTTAWA — The Canadian government said Monday it has signed a $20 billion (US$15.55 billion) agreement to compensate First Nations children and families harmed by chronic underfunding of child welfare.

The Assembly of First Nations and plaintiffs in two class action lawsuits agreed to the deal.

Indigenous Services Canada, a government agency, said the settlement is the largest in Canadian history.

“The parties have agreed on a plan for settling compensation claims to recognize the families and people who have suffered tremendously through discriminatory and systemically racist child-welfare practices,″ said Patty Hajdu, the Indigenous services minister.

The settlement accounts for half of an overall $40 billion (US$31.1 billion) deal that aims to reform Canada’s child welfare system, including five-year funding for the First Nations Child and Family Services program.

The settlement must still be approved by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the Federal Court.

Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, praised the deal.

“And after three decades of advocacy and months of negotiations, I’m proud to say on behalf the AFN that we have reached another historic milestone for our children and their families,” she said in a statement.

The First Nations Children and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2007, arguing that Indigenous child welfare services were chronically underfunded compared to services provided to children in other communities.

Data from the 2016 census shows that less thn 8% of Canadian children underage 15 are Indigenous, but Indigenous youths make up more than half the children under 15 in foster care.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that the federal government had discriminated against First Nations children. The government appealed the ruling, but the court upheld the decision.



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