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Feds, lawyers in First Nations child-welfare case reach $55M deal over legal fees

OTTAWA — The federal government and the class-action lawyers who worked on a historic settlement over First Nations child welfare have reached a $55-million deal over legal fees.

The Federal Court approved a landmark $23-billion 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 class-action lawsuit settlement came after a years-long battle with the federal government, which included a 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision that the underfunding was discriminatory, and a 2019 ruling awarding $40,000 in compensation for each affected person.

The proposed agreement reached today, not yet approved by the Federal Court, would see five firms receive $50 million in legal fees, plus $5 million for ongoing work to implement the settlement — with none of that money coming from the money earmarked for compensation.

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

Indigenous Services Canada says it considers the amount in the proposed agreement to be reasonable and it is in line with legal fees paid for previous class-action lawsuits.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2023.

The Canadian Press