Statement of Support for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in their Suit to Recover Funds Taken from First Nations Children in Care 

September 9, 2021

Treaty One Territory, Métis Homeland, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberal MLAs express their full support of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in their lawsuit against the Government of Manitoba launched today.

Under successive NDP and PC governments, the Manitoba Government seized thousands of First Nations children from their families in the 1990s and 2000s, and also took the money intended for the care of those children.

From the very beginning, this policy was a disgrace. This money belongs to First Nations children and should be returned to them, but the problem is much deeper than that.

The fact that the people who ran the Manitoba Government believed they were entitled to take Indigenous children, take their money, then deny them justice by voting themselves immunity is everything that is wrong with our broken relationship with First Nations.

The Manitoba Government took an estimated $338-million in Federal special children's allowances intended for those children and pocketed it.

The NDP's share seized an estimated $250-million, and the PCs seized another $88-million from the most vulnerable people in the province: First Nations children taken from their families by the thousands.

The funds did not go to foster families or to the care of children. It went into general revenue. The impact on children could be devastating. First Nations CFS agencies that has set money aside in trust for children when they aged out of care had their funds seized.

As a consequence, children who "aged out of care" at the age of 18 might get a bus ticket to the Salvation Army and go from being in care to homeless in a day.

In opposition, the PCs described the practice as "illegal and immoral" but still continued it in government. When they did cease the practice of stealing money from children in care, instead of doing the honourable thing and returning the funds, the PCs chose to keep all $338-million in the 2020 Manitoba budget.

They went further, including a clause that shielded all the government officials responsible - Ministers and advisors, NDP and PC alike, from all current and future court cases.

For the PCs to vote to keep money taken from First Nations children they were legally obliged to care for was an act of moral bankruptcy. To shield the people responsible from being held to account is a travesty of justice.

The people being protected include prominent PC and NDP Ministers alike, including former PC Ministers of Families Heather Stefanson and Jennifer Howard, who was Finance and Families Minister under the NDP. She was the Chief of Staff for Jagmeet Singh and is currently National Campaign Director for the Federal NDP.

This is an issue that should be important to everyone, first and foremost the First Nation children, families and communities affected.

Manitoba Liberals are the only party that has called for the funds to be returned. Reforming CFS has been a keystone policy for the Manitoba Liberals for more than a decade.

If the courts cannot deliver justice in this case, politicians have an obligation to do it.



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