Celebrating Anniversaries: A year after CHRT's ruling on discriminatory funding of welfare services for first nations children.

Author:Apolonio, Edward
 
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January 26, 2017 marked the first-year anniversary of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's ("The Tribunal") landmark decision regarding the issue of funding for child welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserve and in the Yukon. The complaint was filed in 2008 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada ("the Caring Society") and the Assembly of First Nations ("AFN"). The case was filed against the Indian Northern Affairs Canada ("INAC"), known at the time of the hearing as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada ("AANDC"). The Caring Society and AFN alleged AANDC discriminates against 160,000 First Nations children living on reserve and in the Yukon, on the basis of race, by providing insufficient and inequitable funding for child and family services. The Tribunal held that this claim was substantiated and accordingly, it ordered AANDC to cease its discriminatory practices.

Even before the decision was released, numerous studies have already found that First Nations children were receiving only 70 cents (up to 78 cents) on the dollar compared to non-Aboriginal children. Research reveals that concerns of this type were raised to the government in the early 1900s, but have been largely ignored. Consequently, due to the lack of support and chronic underfunding of child and family services geared towards First Nations children, significant numbers are taken into foster care. Put differently, in comparison to non-Aboriginal Canadian children, First Nations children are reportedly eight times more likely to be in welfare/foster care.

At the same time, there is a lack of clarity between the federal and provincial/territorial governments regarding who should pay for services that First Nations children need. In effect, First Nations children are falling victim to such disputes that are worsened by the governments' failure to fully implement "Jordan's Principle". Jordan's principle was named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a little boy who spent two years in the hospital and died there while the Province of Manitoba and the federal government argued over who should pay for his at-home care. Such disputes are not uncommon according to the Caring Society. They leave First Nations children denied or waiting for services they desperately need such as education, health, childcare, and culture and language services that are readily available to other Canadian children. Jordan's Principle calls on the...

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