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

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy.’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake man charged with fraud totalling more than $100,000

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been investigating two companies owned by the same man since June 2019

Environment Canada issued a wind warning for parts of central Alberta on Jan. 13, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Wind warning issued for central Alberta

Environment Canada said strong northwesterly winds will develop in the morning and weaken in the evening

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

(Pixabay photo)
Alberta surgeon who hung a noose in a hospital found guilty of unprofessional conduct

College of Physicians and Surgeons says sanctions will be determined at a later hearing

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. The professional group for emergency doctors in Canada wants more transparency about COVID-19 vaccine distribution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadian emergency doctors call for greater transparency on vaccine rollout

Many doctors don’t know when they will be vaccinated and the association says that needs to change

Most Read