Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision is an opportunity to end inequality facing First Nations in child welfare, says Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

TORONTO, Jan. 26, 2016 /CNW/ - Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth applauds the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's ruling that Canada's funding practices towards First Nations child welfare services are inequitable and discriminatory.

"We welcome the Tribunal's decision as a move forward in the journey to healing and reconciliation by addressing the inequity and discrimination First Nations children face," said Irwin Elman.

The complaint, filed by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations in February 2007, alleged that the Canadian government failed to provide equal funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves compared to non-Aboriginal children. The complaint further stated that the Department of Indian and Northern Affair's (now the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs) funding framework for First Nations child and family services was flawed, inequitable and thus discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"The Tribunal's decision focused its spotlight on areas of inequity that contribute to putting First Nations children, their families and communities at risk of coming into contact with the child welfare system, and Canada must move quickly to ensure the necessary services and resources are put in place to mitigate these risks. These include, but are not limited to, basic needs, access to education, housing, clean drinking water, food security, counselling and social services resources," said Elman.

Two immediate frameworks Ontario could implement to begin addressing this inequity, Elman said, are to enshrine Jordan's Principle and Shannen's Dream into law. Jordan's Principle, which the House of Commons unanimously passed in 2007, is a child-first jurisdictional principle that was created and accepted in Ontario as a tool to address disputes between different levels of government over the provision and funding of services for First Nations children. Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, was born with complex medical needs and, while the Province of Manitoba and federal government argued over who would pay for his care, Jordan passed away at the age of five having never received any services.

Shannen's Dream is an idea that originated with Shannen Koostachin, a youth advocate from the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario, who envisioned that every First Nations reserve would have a safe and culturally-supportive space for children and youth to learn in their own community. Shannen died in a car accident at the age of 15, but her appeals to the government manifested in the form of a school that began construction on the day Shannen would have graduated. The school opened in August 2014.

"We look forward to seeing governments making investments in planning with First Nations communities to begin the process of working together to address the inequities that exist," said Elman.

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).

The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvincialAdvocate/featured, Twitter and Facebook.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Media Contact: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth: Akihiko Tse, Media and Communications Coordinator, (416)-325-5994, akihiko.tse@provincialadvocate.on.ca

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http://provincialadvocate.on.ca

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