Feds dis­crim­i­nated against kids: tri­bunal

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The fed­eral govern­ment dis­crim­i­nated against chil­dren on re­serves in its fund­ing of child wel­fare ser­vices, the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal said in a land­mark rul­ing Tues­day.

The quasi-ju­di­cial body pub­lished its find­ings nine years af­ter a com­plaint from the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions and The First Na­tions Child and Fam­ily Car­ing So­ci­ety of Canada, which ar­gued the fed­eral govern­ment failed to pro­vide First Na­tions chil­dren with the same level of ser­vices that ex­ist else­where.

In the de­ci­sion, which is con­sid­ered legally bind­ing, the tri­bunal found First Na­tions are ad­versely im­pacted by the ser­vices pro­vided by the govern­ment and, in some cases, de­nied ser­vices as a re­sult of the govern­ment’s in­volve­ment.

“The panel ac­knowl­edges the suf­fer­ing of those First Na­tions chil­dren and fam­i­lies who are or have been de­nied an eq­ui­table op­por­tu­nity to re­main to­gether or to be re­united in a timely man­ner,’’ the rul­ing said.

Cindy Black­stock, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the The First Na­tions Child and Fam­ily Car­ing So­ci­ety of Canada, said the de­ci­sion marks a great day for First Na­tions chil­dren and for Cana­di­ans who be­lieve in jus­tice and fair­ness.

She is urg­ing the fed­eral govern­ment to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion, adding she will be watch­ing to see how Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau re­sponds, given his com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment all 94 rec­om­men­da­tions from the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion, which spent six years doc­u­ment­ing the painful res­i­den­tial school legacy, called on all lev­els of govern­ment to re­duce the num­ber of abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren taken into care by pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate re­sources for com­mu­ni­ties and child-wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“We need to make sure th­ese chil­dren get what they need im­me­di­ately,’’ Black­stock said.

“I can’t think of a lower thing that a fed­eral govern­ment can do than racially dis­crim­i­nate against ... kids, know that they’re do­ing it, know it is harm­ing them by un­nec­es­sar­ily re­mov­ing them from their fam­i­lies, have the rec­om­men­da­tions in their hands where they could have made it bet­ter — and they don’t do it.’’

While the govern­ment faces a tough eco­nomic cli­mate, Cana­di­ans un­der­stand the need to sup­port equity, she added.

“We have to de­cide as Cana­di­ans: is that the way we want our fis­cal pol­icy done?’’

CP PHOTO

Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Canada Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould, left, looks on as Min­is­ter of In­dige­nous and North­ern Affairs Carolyn Ben­nett speaks about the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal re­gard­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against First Na­tions chil­dren in care dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ottawa Tues­day.

CP PHOTO

As­sem­bly of First Na­tions Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde speaks about the Cana­dian Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal re­gard­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against First Na­tions chil­dren in care dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Ottawa Tues­day.

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