September 25, 2019
Government and Institution Issues
Deaths of Indigenous Children in Child Welfare
72 Indigenous children connected to child welfare died in northern Ontario, where three Indigenous agencies covering most of the territory were underfunded approximately $400 million over a five-year period. The number of deaths jumps to 102 Indigenous children when looking at the entire province between 2013 to 2017. Almost half of the deaths, 48 in total, happened in the two years it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond to multiple orders made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that first found Canada guilty of purposely underfunding on-reserve child welfare in its historic decision on Jan. 26, 2016.
Suicide = 38; Accident = 24; Undetermined = 22; Natural = 17; Homicide = 1 (APTN)
But while the federal government may be the bagman, funding at least 93 per cent of on-reserve child welfare, the Ontario government created the system where these children died and provides the law within which the child welfare agencies operate. It’s a system that has been found to be a complete failure over and over up until just last year when the chief coroner of Ontario released a special report into the deaths of 12 children who died in care, eight of whom were Indigenous. During the five-year period between 2013 and 2017 the coroner lists 541 deaths involving child welfare and 102 were Indigenous. Indigenous people represent less than three per cent of Ontario’s population.
“Safe with Intervention” – Report of the Expert Panel on the deaths of Children and Youth in residential Placements September 2018. Office of the Chief Coroner
To the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario:
- Immediately provide equitable, culturally and spiritually safe and relevant services to Indigenous young people, families and communities in Ontario.
To the Ministries of Children, Community and Social Services, Education, Health and Long-Term Care, and Indigenous Affairs:
- Identify and provide a set of core services and support an integrated system of care for young people and their families across a wholistic continuum to every child in Ontario.
- Services must include health, mental health and wellbeing, education, recreation, child care, children’s mental health, early intervention services, prevention services and developmental services. Service provision should be geared to the needs and intensity of needs, of each young person and family.
- Develop a wholistic approach to the identification of, service planning for and service provision to high-risk young people (with or without child welfare involvement) that supports continuity of care to age 21 years.
- Strengthen accountability and opportunities for continuous improvement of the systems of care through measurement, evaluation and public reporting.
To the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services:
- Immediately enhance the quality and availability of placements for young people in care.
January 24, 2022
First Nations Excluded from Ontario COVID program
Toronto Star – First Nations children in Ontario are excluded from the provincial governments commitments “that all schools in Ontario will have access to rapid COVID tests and N95 masks for teachers, as well as upgraded masks for students and HEPA filters in each classroom.”
Excuses from provincial leaders hold that this is the responsibility of their federal counterparts.
The excuses continue from federal officials, who respond that there is limited funding, while local leaders on the ground complain that you can only apply for supplies through a complicated process entrenched in lengthy bureaucratic procedures — and applications rarely yield results.
How many HEPA filters has the Nishnawbe Aski Nation received to date for schools? The answer is none.
“We haven’t seen anything yet,” said Bobby Narcisse, the deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. “It’s just looking for that equitable access to many of those resources that every other school in the province has access to.” How would parents feel if their child was denied access to safety measures that other children were entitled to, based on their race? Most parents would say this is discrimination and would not tolerate it. Yet we permit it for Indigenous children and youth across the province.
Currently, there is urgency for the children going back to school during the worst health crisis of our lives. Premier Ford says all children have access to supplies to make school safer. We must ensure that this really means all children in Ontario.
The province should now immediately apply Jordan’s Principle, which prioritizes the safety of children first, while addressing jurisdictional infighting over financial payments later.
March 21, 2019
Yellowhead Institue Critique of Bill C-92
“Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families” was graded as follows by the Yellowhead Institute of Ryerson University based on analysis by five Indigenous legal scholars. (See also First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Information Brief in C2A # 4)
National Standards: …………………… C
Data Collection and Reporting: …..D
Yellowhead Institute Recommendations
- Ensure that standards exist in law so that Indigenous children do not automatically become government wards without significant efforts are made to maintain familial and community care.
- Require ongoing legal relationships, or at the least, access to children’s family of origin.
Include strong, mandatory language around BIOC to address judicial bias and overtake any binding precedents in this area.
- Include “active efforts” or “maximum contact” clauses in relation to Indigenous child welfare with First Nations have not taken over full jurisdiction.
- A requirement of written documentation of active efforts to find placements according to the priority set out or affidavit evidence from the Indigenous group that there is no available placement.
- And/or a presumption that an access order with some family or community member and a long-term funding commitment for regular travel back to the community is included as a term of any permanency order.
- Attach clear federal funding commitments for First Nations pursuing child welfare jurisdiction.
- Ensure funding reflects the principle of substantive equality and which also meets the needs and circumstances of children on reserve
- Ensure off-reserve, Métis, non-status and Inuit children and families are included in budgets, distinct from non-Indigenous children and families.
- Compel coordination between federal and provincial governments regarding incentives to cooperate and adequately fund Indigenous governing bodies to implement Jordan’s Principle.
- Establish a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with situations where Indigenous groups experience challenges in entering collaboration agreements with Canada and the provinces, in the cases they are required.
- Create an independent body to hear disputes and make binding decisions on all parties.
- Recognize jurisdiction as a right to self- determination under UNDRIP rather than a s. 35 right.
Set a clear path out of the existing jurisdictional squabbling between the provincial and federal governments.
- Revise paramountcy rules so they are clear enough for, and accessible to community members, so that can understand in time sensitive or emergency circumstances.
- Contain clear conflict of laws principles and processes that give real weight to Indigenous law-making authority and jurisdiction.
- Address the long-standing issue of services to First Nations children who are residing off-reserve, as well as non-status, Métis and Inuit children.
- Provide clarity and direction on how the “Best Interests Of the Child” (BIOC) standard will be defined regarding the applicability of laws. At minimum this should clarify a standard for best interests of the Indigenous child— determined by Indigenous legal and community standards—and dictate the application of federal and provincial laws to Indigenous children.
- Clearly and openly resolve the lack of funding for Indigenous law-making, administration and enforcement as well as funding for the preventative of child and family health.
Data Collecting and Reporting
- Mandate collection and publication of data along the lines of TRC Call to Action #2
- Address privacy issues by anonymized and displaying data in aggregate.