Indigenous children still being treated unequally by provinces: advocate

Issue arose during hearings into Canada’s missing and murdered women

A First Nations children’s advocate says Indigenous kids are still not being treated equally because provinces and territories are shirking their responsibilities.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that provinces are still denying Indigenous kids access to services that are available to non-Indigenous kids.

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week focused on child welfare.

Despite a ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Blackstock said provinces still aren’t adhering to Jordan’s Principle which stipulates Indigenous kids should get access to services without delays caused by jurisdictional issues.

“Provinces have taken the position ‘Well the feds now are on the hook for Jordan’s Principle, so we are not going to step up to the plate. We are just going to try and see if the feds can pick it up.’ Which is totally contrary to the whole issue of Jordan’s principle,” she said.

The principle is named after Jordan River Anderson, a boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who died without ever being able to go home because of a dispute over who would pay for his health care.

“Jordan died in that hospital because the province of Manitoba and the government of Canada failed to put his best interests first,” Blackstock said.

The tribunal ordered Canada to stop discriminating immediately, reform First Nations child welfare programs and make sure Indigenous kids have their health, education and social needs met no matter where they live.

READ MORE: Involve Indigenous drug users in finding solutions to B.C.’s OD crisis: report

Blackstock said all levels of government are not complying fully with the tribunal’s ruling creating situations where children are put at risk.

“We are creating and we are perpetuating conditions that place Indigenous women and girls at greater risk for violence,” she said.

Blackstock said the federal government has acted on the ruling over the last year but there is still a lot more to be done.

From July 2016 to Aug. 31, 2018, more than 122,000 requests were approved under Jordan’s Principle for things like medical equipment, respite care and mental health services.

However, no province or territory has fully adopted the principle, Blackstock said. Manitoba should have taken more significant action as Jordan Anderson’s home province, she added.

“There is no excuse for any level of inequality,” Blackstock said.

Indigenous children account for about seven per cent of all kids in Canada, but make up more than half the number in care. In Manitoba, Indigenous children make up nearly 90 per cent of kids in care.

A Manitoba government spokesperson said in an emailed statement that further consultation with First Nations and the federal government is needed to eliminate service gaps for children. It said the province is committed to supporting the federal government to ensure Indigenous children have equal access to services.

Indigenous Services Canada spokesperson William Olscamp said in an emailed statement that the federal government is working with First Nations, provinces and territories to develop a long-term approach to address the unique health, social and education needs of First Nations children.

“The bottom line is that kids should come first and they shouldn’t have to wait for governments to get their act together to do the right thing,” Blackstock said.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Wildfire northeast of Clinton put out by BC Wildfire Service

Fire at 51 Mile Creek suspected to be lightning-caused

Barkerville keeping busy hosting tourists amid COVID-19 pandemic

The historic town opened July 3 with a number of safety measures in place

Fish studies continue on Quesnel Lake six years after Mount Polley Mine breach

Copper concentrations in West Basin sediment remain above concentrations at reference sites

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Wild’s Mathew Dumba makes anti-racism speech, kneels ahead of Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Matt Dumba, 26, took to center ice to speak on behalf of fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance

Most Read