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 reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

County of Paintearth
County of Paintearth meeting highlights April 7th

Bylaw 698-21 was presented to council for first reading during their April 7th meeting of council

Supporters pray outside as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021, after being charged with holding Sunday services in violation of COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta church shut down, fenced off for ignoring COVID-19 health restrictions

Police and security staff were on hand as metal fencing was erected around the church building earlier today

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Josee Cabral is seen in her office in Chateauguay, Que. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Watch the details to help avoid financial headaches when filing your tax return

Small, easily avoidable mistakes could end up costing you if you’re not careful

Most Read