Chief Kevin Hart enters court in Winnipeg on Thursday, February 22, 2018. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to oppose a judicial review of an order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that expanded First Nations children’s eligibility to receive public services under Jordan’s Principle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Chief Kevin Hart enters court in Winnipeg on Thursday, February 22, 2018. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to oppose a judicial review of an order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that expanded First Nations children’s eligibility to receive public services under Jordan’s Principle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Feds’ challenge of ruling on First Nations children ‘a slap in the face’: AFN

Ottawa announced before Christmas it would seek a judicial review of the decision

The federal government’s appeal of a ruling that expanded First Nations children’s rights to public services is “a slap in the face,” says the Assembly of First Nations.

The November ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal widened the applicability of Jordan’s Principle, a rule that says that when governments disagree about who’s responsible for providing services to First Nations children, they must help a child in need first and argue over the bills later.

In November, the tribunal ruled that the principle applies to children who live off reserves if they identify as members of a particular First Nation and that nation claims them — even if they don’t have status under the Indian Act — and to children of parents who could legally get status but do not have it.

Effectively, it allows First Nations to decide whether a particular child is entitled to federally funded services, not just the federal government under the Indian Act.

Ottawa announced before Christmas it would seek a judicial review of the decision.

When the case goes to Federal Court, the government will find the Assembly of First Nations there, ready for the fight.

“If you look at the tribunal’s ruling and you look at the reasoning behind Canada submitting a judicial review, it’s flawed,” said Kevin Hart, the AFN’s regional chief for Manitoba, in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Hart said the government challenge of the tribunal’s order “was a stab in the back to us as leadership, but even more so it’s a slap in the face to our First Nations children for the government of Canada to do this in this day and age.”

Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation. He was born with multiple disabilities and spent his whole five years of life in hospital because the federal and Manitoba governments each insisted the other should pay for his care in a special home.

The tribunal based its November decision on several cases of “the tragic consequences of Canada’s discriminatory policy” against First Nations children living off-reserve.

One was the treatment of a 18-month-old First Nations girl living in Toronto, without status under the Indian Act.

The child, who has a rare and potentially life-threatening medical condition known as hyperinsulinism, needed to travel with her parents to Edmonton in November 2018 for an essential scan only available there, according to evidence presented to the tribunal.

The government wouldn’t cover the family’s expenses due to the child’s off-reserve residency and lack of Indian Act status, but the infant’s mother was eligible to be registered and to receive First Nations status under the Indian Act.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society intervened and covered the medical transportation expenses. Later, the organization co-filed the complaint with the Assembly of First Nations that led to the recent tribunal decision.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a news release in December it’s been fully implementing the tribunal’s order while seeking the court review.

The executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Cindy Blackstock said the government’s news release makes it appear as if the government is expanding services for First Nations children by its own benevolence.

“In fact, (the government) strongly opposed our motion to extend services to First Nations children without status, off reserve,” she said in an interview.

Blackstock said the lack of essential services, decent housing and safe drinking water has pushed many Indigenous families to live off reserves.

“They have to live off reserve and then they’re denied services by the federal government because they live off reserve,” she said. “That’s wrong.”

The organization also filed a notice to appear in Federal Court, opposing the government’s appeal.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a statement it’s seeking the review because “it was not within the tribunal’s statutory jurisdiction to issue such a decision.”

The department said the tribunal’s decision was made without broad participation of First Nations communities across Canada.

Hart described the tribunal’s order as a “historic ruling” because it goes beyond the Indian Act and supports First Nations’ right to determine who the members of their nations are.

“The ruling from the tribunal is supportive of First Nations right of self-determination and self-governance, not interfering,” he said. “In addition, Canada has made a number of unilateral changes to Jordan’s Principle over these last few years. And these changes were made without consultation of First Nations.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studios. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Interview with Oceanside RCMP operational support NCO Cpl. Jesse Foreman

Podcast: Talk includes policing, commercial fishing, COVID-19, Tour de Rock and more

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

(File photo)
Case of COVID-19 confirmed in School District 69 (Qualicum)

Individual was at PASS/Woodwinds, with a last date of attendance of Jan. 22

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Five big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19:

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Christopher Anthony Craig Dick is wanted by the Port Alberni RCMP in connection to multiple investigations. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Vancouver Island RCMP seek man connected to assault investigations

Christopher Dick, 36, was recently in the North Cowichan and Duncan region

Vernon has agreed to a goose cull to control the over-populated invasive species making a muck of area parks and beaches. (Morning Star file photo)
Okanagan city pulls the trigger on goose cull

City asking neighbours to also help control over-population of geese

Members of the Saanich Fire Department can be seen working to put out a fire in the 4500-block of Chattertown Way on Jan. 26. (Saanich Fire/Twitter)
One cat killed, another resuscitated following blaze in Saanich townhouse

Neighbours evacuated following fire on Chatterton Way, third cat still missing

Tahsis mayor Martin Davis stands with an old-growth tree in McKelvie Creek Valley. The village of Tahsis signed a Letter of Understanding with forestry company Western Forest Products to establish McKelvie watershed as a protected area. Photo courtesy, TJ Watt.
Landmark deal expected to protect Tahsis watershed from logging

Tahsis and WFP agree on letter of understanding to preserve McKelvie Creek Valley within TFL 19

Most Read