Human rights tribunal to be told Canada is still failing First Nations kids

Human rights tribunal to be told Canada is still failing First Nations kids
An advocacy group for First Nations families will present arguments to the Human Rights Tribunal Friday that Canada isn't living up to its promise of timely access to health care for Indigenous children. Child welfare advocate Cindy Blackstock is recognized by the Speaker of the House of Commons, along with her fellow recipients of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada 2022 Impact Award, after Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022.

The First Nations Family and Caring Society will argue before the Human Rights Tribunal Friday that Canada isn’t living up to its promise of timely access to health care for Indigenous children.

Jordan’s Principle is a legal rule that ensures First Nations kids are able to access health care, social and educational supports when they need them, with questions about which jurisdiction pays for them to be worked out afterward.

On Friday the society will submit an affidavit at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal after bringing a non-compliance motion against the federal government for failing to process Jordan’s Principle claims in a timely manner.

The society will argue that means kids are being denied supports they need or those who provide services aren’t getting paid.

Caring society executive director Cindy Blackstock said the situation has become so dire the society has begun paying costs itself.

She said the organization has received calls from community members saying their requests under Jordan’s Principle weren’t being acknowledged, and that there are thousands of cases in limbo.

Included among that group are kids who are being denied life-saving medical treatment as a result, including children in palliative care, she said.

Blackstock said service providers “are often going over and above to try and continue to provide services for the kids but at the end of the day they have people to pay and they have to feed their families.”

Simon Ross, a spokesperson for the minister of Indigenous services, said in an email the government is “undertaking a careful review” of the Caring Society’s motion, but that it was too early to comment.

He pointed to the $20-billion long-term reform funding for the child welfare system that followed a landmark class-action settlement last fall, which found Canada was discriminating against First Nations children under Jordan’s Principle and other child welfare concerns.

“We are working to find a resolution as soon as possible, so that every child in this country can have a fair chance at reaching their full potential,” he said. Ross added the department is also working on short-term solutions, such as using new technologies to speed up approvals and “reduce administrative burdens.”

Despite there being no costs to file a Jordan’s Principle request, Blackstock said the slow movement from the federal government has left a void for some individuals, leading some of them to pay for-profit services to help with applications.

The tribunal is expected to hear the case in April or early May. Other parties who are keen to participate need to inform the tribunal before Jan. 22.

Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2024.

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