Ottawa to announce new $40bn Indigenous payments after lengthy silence

The federal government will include a new $40bn line in the fiscal update to pay compensation to affected aboriginal children for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Friday.

The government has been working for nearly two years on crafting a solution to provide compensation to children whose lives were affected by missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, Bennett said in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

“This is not a coming out party … we’ve known for a while that we needed to move faster,” Bennett said. “We felt like we could not ignore the larger point. We’ve known for a long time.”

In an unusual sign of solidarity with aboriginal women, Bennett also announced her plan to add the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls at a news conference on Friday afternoon in Toronto.

“The silence has to end, the pain has to end and the time has come to really address this issue in a sustained and structured way,” Bennett said in her prepared remarks to reporters.

Consensus on a plan among all major Ottawa parties has been elusive.

In April, the official opposition – the New Democrats – introduced an amendment to a budget implementation bill that would see $2bn over four years dedicated to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The amendment, however, failed on a vote of 128-157 after vocal support from major Ottawa parties who were divided on the issue.

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While the government has proposed to implement a new deal and has appeared open to a deal, aboriginal groups have accused Ottawa of bargaining without seriously engaging with them to try to come up with a plan.

“Today is not about us. Today is about it being a commitment by the government. This is not the end of the conversation,” Bennett said. “Our work will not be over until all these people get the support and the financial support they deserve.”

Aboriginal groups have long had a reputation for favouring promises over actual action, and have repeatedly been upset at the lack of resources that have been provided for the investigation and recovery of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

The Conservative opposition promised that during the 2015 federal election campaign to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls but has yet to make good on that pledge.

The Liberals, however, have promised to spend $20m on a board to assess the possibility of criminal charges in relation to missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls and its inclusion in the Wednesday’s fiscal update and $2bn a year for research and development on indigenous issues.

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