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Trial begins between Indigenous agencies and province for CFS funds

A civil trial starting Tuesday in Winnipeg will hear arguments about whether the Manitoba government should have used hundreds of millions of federal dollars that Indigenous organizations say should’ve gone directly to First Nations and Metis children in care.

The trial will happen virtuallyTuesday through Friday in front of Judge James Edmond at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.

There are several groups being represented as plaintiffs this week against the province of Manitoba. They include 16 different Indigenous agencies, a former CFS executive who is proposing a class action lawsuit on behalf of children in care, and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs that is arguing against the province’s use of legislation in the matter.

Starting in 2006, the province required Child and Family Services agencies to remit federal money given to them called the Children’s Special Allowance (CSA). That money is meant for children in care and currently ranges from $569 to $480 a month per child.

The province’s stance was that the government paid to look after those children, therefore the money was theirs. The practice was ended in 2019 by the Progressive Conservatives in power.

Over the past few years, several parties have filed lawsuits and court documents against the province for the remittance of funds and what critics say was the province’s use of legislation to absolve itself of any wrongdoing.

Both issues will be discussed during the trial this week.

One result of the trial could mean the Manitoba government would be responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in restitution payments.

There are more than 11,000 children in care in Manitoba, about 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous, according to the First Nations Family Advocate.


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