Protest targets Trudeau government’s refusal to follow court orders on funding children’s services

Share Button

After a series of federal rulings that Canada was discriminating against First Nations children, Indigenous organizations held a National Day of Action on First Nations Child Welfare in Ottawa recently.

The event was organized by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), which, with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS), took the federal government to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over the issue in 2007.

Indigenous organizations argue that First Nations children do not access government services at the same level as children in non-Native communities.

They were also seeking to have Jordan’s Principle enshrined in law. The concept is named after Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba born with a variety of health issues. Manitoba and the federal government fought for two years over who was to pay for his home care. In the end, Jordan died while still in the hospital, never having had the chance to live at home.

Jordan’s Principle was established to ensure that this wouldn’t happen again. It says that the government level first contacted for help is obliged to pay immediately, while the details over reimbursements can be dealt with later.

This is particularly relevant for Indigenous children, as Statistics Canada recently reported that Indigenous children require acute care up to 3.8 times as much as non-Indigenous children, with respiratory diseases being particularly common.

Nine years later, the Tribunal agreed with the AFN and FNCFCS, ordering the government to immediately cease discrimination against First Nations children.

Marc St. Dennis, the Reconciliation and Research Coordinator at the FNCFCS, estimates that the ruling will affect about 165,000 First Nations children.

“It was a huge, unprecedented win for the kids. Nothing like this has ever occurred in Canada,” St. Dennis told the Nation.

However, the story didn’t end there. Since the ruling in 2016, the two organizations have gone back to the Tribunal three times to argue that Canada has yet to implement and follow the ruling. All three times, the Tribunal agreed.

“We’re seeing now, one-and-a-half years after the case, Canada continues not to comply with the orders, so that’s why we have the National Day of Action – to call on Parliament to stand up for First Nations kids,” said St. Dennis.

“The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s rulings are simple and clear – First Nations children deserve to be treated fairly,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde at the rally in Ottawa. “Our children deserve the same care and services that are available to other children in this country… They should not have to wait any longer.”

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart echoed that call.

“For First Nations, this is part of a long and sad story that goes from the Indian Residential Schools system to the Sixties Scoop to today’s child welfare system,” said Hart. “Our message today is simple: stop taking our children from us, honour the Tribunal ruling, and work with us to give our children hope and opportunity.”

An estimated 300 people attended the rally, with some coming from as far as the Nishnabi Aski Nation in northern Ontario.

The federal government maintains on its website that it is working towards implementing Jordan’s Principle. While St. Dennis agrees that many more children have received services than before, he says the government is still trying to fight the case.

After the last ruling, in May 2017, Canada brought the case for judicial review, arguing that there are some situations that require them to take more time.

However, St. Dennis said that the Tribunal found no cases where that was deemed necessary.

He says that they will continue calling on the government to comply with the Tribunal rulings until they do. He compared the 10-year fight to ensure services for First Nations children with the Marshall Plan, the 10-year plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

“If they can do that, we can certainly provide services to First Nations children and end discrimination.”

Share Button

Comments are closed.