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Child Welfare (1-5)

Federal government failing to live up to Jordan’s Principle: Blackstock

April 2, 2024

Human rights tribunal hearings taking place all week.

APTN News: The head of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society says more Indigenous children are dying because of Ottawa’s failure to meet its commitments under Jordan’s Principle.

“We want Canada to abide by its legal order so that kids stop being hurt and kids don’t die unnecessarily,” Cindy Blackstock said outside a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing on Tuesday. “I mean one of the things we’re hearing a lot about in that room today is a lot of procedural stuff for the government. How these are operational concerns for the government. What we’re not hearing is what’s happening on the ground for kids.”

Jordan’s Principle says First Nations kids are supposed to be able to access health, social and educational supports when they need them regardless of which jurisdiction they live in – federal, provincial or territorial.

Requests are supposed to be processed within 48 hours.

In a 2016 ruling, the CHRT ruled that Ottawa’s definition of Jordan’s Principle was “discriminatory” and ordered Canada to make changes.

But Blackstock brought a “non-compliance” motion at the CHRT because Ottawa is often not processing Jordan’s Principle claims in a timely manner leaving First Nations children and their families in limbo.

Former Indigenous Services associate deputy minister Valerie Gideon was one of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing and she said increasing First Nations capacity could lessen some of the backlog in getting to requests.

“I think to the extent to which First Nations could participate in the determination of requests is something that would first of all alleviate, obviously, the volume of requests that would come to the federal government but it would also be more aligned in the pathway to self-determination,” Gideon said.

For her part, CHRT adjudicator Sophie Marchildon told the hearing the status quo is clearly not working and it is incumbent upon all parties to do better.

“Surely there’s a better way moving forward and I will ask every single party to dream,” she said. “To dream the best scenario that they’ve ever dreamed of and to review the requested orders thinking we need solutions now and we also need solutions in the long term.”

The hearing continues all week.

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