OTTAWA, June 1 /CNW Telbec/ - An historic case, with potentially broad sweeping national implications for First Nations, is set to be heard by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa on June 2 and 3.
A motion filed by the federal government, however, could stop the Tribunal from hearing the complaint that the federal government is discriminating against thousands of First Nations children in state care. The federal government continues to ask the Tribunal to dismiss the long-awaited public hearing initiated by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) in 2007 citing that the Tribunal does not have proper jurisdiction over this matter.
"This case is ultimately about protecting our children's health and safety, by ensuring they receive services equal to those offered to all other children in Canada," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "Our children are six to eight times more likely to be in care compared to the general population. This is largely due to the poor social and economic conditions faced by too many of our people which include inadequate housing and no access to critical services and necessary supports. We have brought this case to reinforce the principle of equity for our children and we remain hopeful that it will receive a fair and independent review."
The complaint, filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleges that First Nations children in federally-funded child welfare agencies cannot access the same services as other children in provincial agencies due to inequities in funding - something that has also been documented in reports by the FNCFCS (2005), Auditor General of Canada (2008) and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2009). All note that the federal government is not funding First Nations child welfare agencies at the same level as provincial services, that case workers are overburdened and many agencies operate without the basic necessities for tracking children's needs, such as computers.
To date, over 5000 Canadians have joined the FNCFCS's "I am a witness" campaign - many of whom will observe the hearings this week. The growing interest and awareness of this national issue relates to the fact that today, there are 27,000 First Nations children in care - more than at the height of the residential schools system. Approximately 9,000 of these children are in First Nations child and family service agencies.
The Assembly of First Nation is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada is a national non-profit organization providing services to First Nations child welfare organizations.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
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