National Chief Praises decision regarding Human Rights Complaint on Child Welfare



    OTTAWA, Oct. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS)
executive director Cindy Blackstock praised today's decision by the Canadian
Human Rights Commission to allow a tribunal to hear a human rights complaint
regarding First Nations children in state care.
    "This is one of the most significant human rights cases to ever arise in
Canada. The decision by the Canadian Human Rights Commission is very positive,
it means we can finally begin to address the national crisis that has been
created by unfair funding and inequitable services for First Nations children
who are in state care," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "We are also
calling on the minority Conservative government and all federal parties to
proceed with the inquiry with no further delay. Delaying a hearing through
unnecessary appeals will only delay justice for thousands of children in state
care. All parties should work together to resolve the issue of discrimination
in the child welfare system as quickly as possible."
    "When accountable and responsible governments see discrimination against
vulnerable children they should run toward equality - not inch toward it,"
said First Nations Child and Family Caring Society executive director Cindy
Blackstock. "Considering that there are three times the number of First
Nations children in child welfare care today than at the height of residential
schools and independent experts have cited the federal government's under
funding of child welfare as a contributing factor, I simply can not understand
why the federal government would not move immediately to ensure equal
treatment for First Nations children."
    The AFN and the FNCFCS filed the complaint with the Canadian Human Rights
Commission on February 23, 2007 after the 2005 Wend:e Report revealed that
First Nation Child Welfare Agencies receive approximately 22% less funding
than provincial agencies. Since the complaint was filed in 2007, the federal
government has twice refused mediation, and has been unwilling to discuss
national solutions outlined in both the Wend:e Report and the AFN's 2006
Leadership Action Plan on First Nations Child Welfare.
    In May 2008, a report by the Auditor General of Canada found that the
federal government is not providing First Nations Child and Family Services
agencies with enough funding to meet the number or the needs of children in
care. The report stated that the funding formula has not been reviewed since
1988, and it has not been adjusted for inflation since 1995, leaving First
Nation Child and Family Services under-funded compared to provincial services.
The Auditor General also critiqued the new child welfare model in Alberta
noting that it assumes only 6 percent of First Nations children will be in
care, when in some agencies the true number is much higher.
    Similar to the Child Welfare issue, other core programs for First Nations
have been capped at 2% a year, which does not keep pace with inflation or the
growing First Nations population, creating a growing gap in the quality of
life of First Nations compared to Canadians. The average Canadian gets
services from the federal, provincial and municipal governments at an amount
that is almost two-and-a-half times greater than that received by First
Nations citizens. After more than 12 years of efforts by the AFN to achieve
some measure of fairness in funding, the AFN has concluded that filing formal
human rights complaints and Charter challenges are increasingly important
options to assist First Nations to achieve equity.
    There are an estimated 27,000 First Nations children in state care, of
whom 8,300 are in the care of First Nations child and family service agencies.
    The AFN and the FNCFS are also launching a fundraising campaign to offset
costs for the case.
    Donations can be made by contacting the AFN or the FNCFCS.




For further information:

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, AFN Health and Social
Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext. 210, cell: (613) 772-0156,
kpugliese@afn.ca


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