First Nations Continue to advocate for fair and equitable services for Children, Oppose Canada's appeal on Human Rights Complaint

OTTAWA, May 18, 2012 /CNW/ - The Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (CFCSC), together with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Chiefs of Ontario and Amnesty International today expressed concern following the Government of Canada's application for appeal in a human rights case that could mean fair and equitable treatment of First Nations children.

The federal government's application for appeal comes after an April 18, 2012 decision by the Federal Court directing the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to examine evidence that First Nations children are being discriminated against because of federal underfunding of child protection services on reserve.  That court decision confirmed the Government of Canada could be held accountable under the Canadian Human Rights Act for ensuring that First Nations people on reserve have fair and equitable access to government services.

"It is so disappointing to see the federal government put its interests ahead of the interests of children again by pursuing these legal technicalities and trying to avoid a full hearing on the discrimination matter," said FNCFCS Executive Director Dr. Cindy Blackstock.

"This application for appeal will only continue to delay the hearing of our human rights complaint, while the lives and futures of our children continue to be compromised," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, adding that the Government of Canada made false assurances just last week at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  "The Tribunal was set up for a reason.  We must use this and all other avenues to ensure the safety of our children - the future for all of us.  An appeal process will only add barriers and further violates the rights of some of the most vulnerable."

Just last week, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Government of Canada stated: "Canada is committed to promoting reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population in Canada.  The process of reconciliation includes a commitment to continually improving the relationship with Aboriginal peoples based on knowledge of our shared past, mutual respect, and a desire to move forward together in partnership."

"Canada's assurances to the international community are false when their conduct in Canada is completely adversarial, contrary to reconciliation and partnership and is a continuing and deliberate violation of the rights of the most vulnerable sector of the domestic population in Canada, First Nations children," said AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.

The FNCFCS and AFN filed the discrimination complaint in February 2007 based on the under-funding of child welfare services on reserve compared to that for off reserve.  Currently, First Nations receive 22% less funding than other agencies in the country.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Chiefs of Ontario and Amnesty International have intervened in support of the complaint.

"Canada has a clear obligation to stand up for the best interests of children and ensure that everyone has access to timely redress for human rights violations," said Craig Benjamin, a spokesperson for Amnesty International Canada. "In putting further, unnecessary roadblocks to a full hearing before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the federal government is once again failing in its human rights obligations toward First Nations children."

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

For further information:

Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society: 613-230-5885 ext. 222 or cblackst@fncaringsociety.com

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations: 613-241-6789, ext. 401 or jyoung@afn.ca

André Morriseau, Chiefs of Ontario: 416-597-1266 or andre@coo.org

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada: 416-363-9933, ext. 332

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ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

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