Feds discriminated against kids: tribunal
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?’’
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.
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.