WINNIPEG — Indigenous leaders are calling out the Manitoba government over the introduction of a new bill, which they are calling a “major setback for reconciliation.’
The province recently introduced Bill 34: The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act. According to a news release from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO), the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), Indigenous leaders are particularly concerned by section 8, “which sets out to legally end the ability of current and former children in care to sue the Manitoba government for clawing back their monthly Children’s Special Allowance (CSA).
The organizations said this allowance is equal to the maximum Canada Child Benefit Payment, as well as the Child Disability Benefit.
“It is estimated that to date, the Province of Manitoba has illegitimately taken $250 million from Indigenous children in care,” the news release said.
“They have moved these funds from the Government of Canada into their general revenue stream for years.”
The groups noted there are two legal actions a person can take if the government recalls their CSA, but if Bill 34 is passed, they will no longer be available.
“The introduction of section 8 in Bill 34 today, not only ends the two legal actions in court, but also ends the Manitoba government’s ability to be held accountable for its actions in the future,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the SCO.
The organizations said the CSA was initially a trust fund for Indigenous children in care, but has been “repurposed and used as a revenue source for the Government of Manitoba.”
“In Manitoba, children in care have been aging out without any resources set aside to help them with their future,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.
“Some children aging out have been left at homeless shelters with nothing to their name.
“MKO is imploring the Government of Manitoba to act in good faith to reconciliation and return the $250 million to the Indigenous authorities to create trust funds for children in care.”
The MMF, MKO and SCO have written a letter to the Minister of Families Heather Stefanson to remove the provisions.
Leaders from each of these organizations are holding a joint virtual press conference on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
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