AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Human Rights Tribunal Decision a Call to Action for Government to Support and Protect First Nations Children

OTTAWA, Sept. 15, 2016 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today's decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) on First Nations child welfare is yet another harsh reminder to the Government of Canada to act quickly in the best interests of First Nations children. The ruling requires Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to provide clear information about how it is implementing the Tribunal's decision of last January 2016 which found that First Nations children and families living on reserve and in the Yukon were discriminated against in the provision of child and family services by INAC.

"We have to remember that this is first and foremost about children and their safety and well-being," said AFN National Chief Bellegarde.  "I welcome today's ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal but it is disappointing to see that Canada has to be pushed to respect human rights and end discrimination against First Nations children. Canada must be more transparent and work with us a on a better system to reform the federal First Nation child welfare program that is supported by fair funding based on real needs. This is, after all, about working together in the interests of our children."

On September 14, 2016 the CHRT issued a second Supplemental Decision (2016 CHRT 16) to update its January 2016 Order. The Supplemental Decision deals with issues related to immediate relief, directing INAC to address a number of discriminatory elements of its FNCFS program.  The Order states that the federal government failed to deal promptly with key findings of the Tribunal's January Decision. The Tribunal notes that the approach in which INAC proposes to address discrimination "is reflective of INAC's old mindset that spurred this complaint. This may imply that INAC is still informed by information and policies that fall within this old mindset and that led to discrimination …"

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who was recently with Cindy Blackstock at Norway House Cree Nation – home of Jordan River Anderson – and holds the portfolio on Child Welfare for AFN, stated: "Equity in funding for our children is a first priority and essential to create safety, security and an environment where our children have the opportunity to succeed. We must end discrimination and support success for this generation and future generations. The fact that Canada is dragging its feet is contrary to fairness and human rights. All Canadians can understand the need for fairness for children."

The Supplemental Decision calls on the Government of Canada to fully implement Jordan's Principle, which is meant to ensure equitable access to government services available to other children in Canada.  The Supplemental Decision also requires the federal government to update its policies, procedures and agreements to comply with the Panel's findings in the Decision. In addition, the Supplemental Decision orders INAC to produce detailed evidence to support its claims that investments announced in Budget 2016 and the more recent announcement of $382 million for Jordan's Principle comply with the January order. The reports are due on September 30, 2016 and October 31, 2016.

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, said: "I am profoundly disappointed that the federal government is failing to comply with repeated legal orders to end its racial discrimination against 163,000 First Nations children.  This non-compliance is part of Canada's long and tragic history of knowing better and failing to do better for First Nations children resulting in generation after generation being unnecessarily removed from their families. As the Tribunal suggested in January – Ottawa needs to move from empty rhetoric to meaningful action."

The AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society together filed a complaint to the CHRT in February 2007 alleging the provision of First Nations child and family services by the Government of Canada was discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act.  The joint complaint states that the Government of Canada has a longstanding pattern of providing inequitable funding for child welfare services for First Nations children on reserves compared to non-Aboriginal children. 

AFN continues to seek a collaborative process with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs to jointly work on the complete overhaul of the FNCFS program.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 (cell),; Jenn Jefferys, Communications Officer, 613-241-6789 ext. 110, 613-222-9656 (cell),

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