OTTAWA – “This is a great day for First Nations children and all Canadians who believe in justice and fairness. Racial discrimination against children must not be tolerated and it is vital that Canadians watch the government’s actions closely to ensure the ruling is implemented and inequalities in other First Nations children’s services such as education, health and basics like water and housing are fully addressed.” In the words of the Tribunal, “Canada’s statements and commitments [to reform the FNCFS program], whether expressed on the international scene or at a national level, should not be allowed to remain empty rhetoric,” states Cindy Blackstock, the Executive Director of the Caring Society.
The decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will have direct impact across several areas of the federal government.
Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus states, “Thanks to Cindy Blackstock for her fearless fight for the rights of children. The question for this new government is whether they will break the patterns of systemic discrimination that has denied so many youth the chance of a hopeful future. Justice won’t come in words but in concrete actions to dismantle the system of negligence and denial. The days when federal budgets are made on the backs of impoverished Indigenous children must end.”
In a landmark ruling released today, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children and their families by providing flawed and inequitable child welfare services (“FNCFS Program”) and failing to implement Jordan’s Principle to ensure equitable access to government services available to other children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission listed child welfare equity and reform as its top Call to Action as there are more First Nations children in foster care today than at the height of the residential school era. The Tribunal found that the federal funding formula provides First Nations child and family services agencies with fewer resources than their provincial counterparts. Several years ago, federal government officials pegged the funding shortfall at between 22 per cent and 34 per cent less than what other children receive. Moreover, the Tribunal found that federal funding formulas and policies create a perverse incentive to place First Nations children in foster care and do not address the cultural needs of children.
In its decision, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal said, “[T]he Panel acknowledges the suffering of those First Nations children and families who are or have been denied an equitable opportunity to remain together or be reunited in a timely manner. We also recognize those First Nations children and families who are or have been adversely impacted by the Government of Canada’s past and current child welfare practices on reserve” and ordered Ottawa to “cease its discriminatory practices and reform the FNCFS Program and the 1965 [Ontario] Agreement to reflect the findings of this decision. AANDC is also ordered to cease applying its narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle and to take measures to immediately implement the full meaning and scope of Jordan’s Principle.”