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Blackstock sees ‘imbalance’ between $55M lawyers’ bill, welfare victims’ compensation

OTTAWA — Cindy Blackstock, one of the people responsible for bringing forward a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case that led to a historic settlement agreement, says she is concerned about an “imbalance” between what lawyers and victims will be paid.

The Federal Court approved a landmark $23-billion class-action lawsuit settlement last month to compensate more than 300,000 First Nations children and their families for chronic underfunding of on-reserve child-welfare services.

The federal government and class-action lawyers from five legal firms have since reached an additional $55-million deal over legal fees, which they promised to negotiate as part of the settlement agreement but which has not yet been approved in Federal Court.

The lawyers involved in the class-action suit had initially said the federal government should provide $80 million in compensation, but Ottawa argued that was too much.

Blackstock says she is concerned about an “imbalance” in compensation being paid to lawyers, when victims are to receive comparatively little.

The settlement came after a years-long battle with the federal government, which included a 2016 tribunal decision that the underfunding was discriminatory, and a 2019 ruling awarding $40,000 in compensation for each affected person.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023.

The Canadian Press