In a battle now running 10 years, the federal government refuses to correct its discriminatory funding for First Nations children’s services on reserve. These services are funded at a lower level than services provided off-reserve for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and families.
The complaint brought to the federal Human Rights tribunal by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society faced years of obfuscation by the Harper Tories. When the case was finally heard and the tribunal sided with the First Nations organizations in January 2016, the Trudeau Liberals showed they are big on talk and nothing on action.
While the Liberals said they “agreed” with the ruling, they have not implemented the tribunal’s recommendations, which would have meant increasing funding for on-reserve child and family services by $200 million immediately. The tribunal issued two more compliance orders in 2016 and from March 22 to 24, 2017, the tribunal held another non-compliance hearing to get to the bottom of the issue.
But the Liberals argued that the tribunal does not have the authority to enforce its decisions. “The tribunal does not have the statutory authority to enforce its own orders,” wrote the Department of Justice, which is headed up by Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations. In other words, the government can ignore the Human Rights tribunal. This should make us all afraid.
Response from First Nations
But it doesn’t deter Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. According to APTN, if the federal government won’t abide by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on First Nations children, Cindy Blackstock says she’ll take them to the Federal Court. “We see this as a track to the Federal Court,” she explained.
She said if the federal government didn’t believe the tribunal had authority to enforce its own orders then why did the feds agree to the ruling? She said the government has said it can’t move forward until it finishes its “engagement strategy” that has Ottawa talking to groups and organizations to determine their need.
“We asked them what is it that you need to know that you don’t know? They have no idea,” said Blackstock. “They don’t know when this engagement is going to be finished.”
To stay up to date with this ongoing struggle, visit the i am a witness campaign from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada