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Tribunal Finds Canadian Government Discriminates Against First Nation Children

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) says it will develop a new system of child welfare for First Nations on reserves, putting an end to inequalities experienced by First Nations Children.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) welcomes the decision to jointly develop the system and “ensure safety, fairness, and equality for First Nations children and families.”

The highly anticipated decision from the CHRT was released on Tuesday morning and it states that the Government of Canada has discriminated against First Nations children and families on reserve since the beginning of residential schools. The CHRT is requiring the federal government to work with parties to identify a process for remedy.

<who> Photo Credit: AFN/Twitter <who> AFN leaders responding to the report.

"Today the kids win. Today the children are put first," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "This ruling is nine years in the making. That is a full generation of children waiting for justice and fairness, not to mention the decades of discrimination that has created the gap between First Nations and Canadians. First Nations are ready to work together with the federal government to develop a new system of child and family services as directed by the CHRT, and this includes immediate relief funding for First Nations children and families and a new collaborative approach to a funding formula that is responsive to needs, reflective of regional diversity and respects fundamental human rights. We cannot wait any longer to close the gap, and I look forward to seeing how the next federal budget will support safety, fairness and equity for First Nations children and families."

The CHRT found the federal government is discriminating against First Nations children and families on reserve by providing flawed and inequitable child welfare services for decades. The decision further states that the Government of Canada has failed to fully implement Jordan's Principle, which is meant to ensure equitable access to government services available to other children in Canada.

<who> Photo Credit: First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

The AFN is seeking immediate funding relief for First Nations children and families based on real needs and reflective of regional diversity and the establishment of an oversight mechanism to ensure equity and fairness are achieved, and maintained.

The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, issued a statement following the decision.

“The Tribunal has made it clear that the system in place today is failing. In a society as prosperous and as generous as Canada, this is unacceptable. This Government agrees that we can and must do better.

We must address the inexcusable number of children in care and make real progress on the social outcomes for children by working with First Nations leaders and communities, provincial and territorial partners. Child and family services issues are complex and require constructive dialogue through a renewed relationship built on trust and partnership. Together, we will make the right changes for better outcomes for First Nations children.”

Many are calling this a historic day in Canada as it will have a profound impact on how the Government of Canada funds other on-reserve programs and services. In February 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCSC) and the Assembly of First Nations lodged a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

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