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

Trent (left) and Treyden (right) are two of the students in the Mountain Bike Academy getting underway in February, taught by Salmon Arm Secondary’s Chris Stromgren (middle). (School District 83 photo)
Salmon Arm Secondary Mountain Bike Academy ready to roll

Course will help develop students’ riding and leadership skills

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Vernon Winter Carnival Cop John Fawcett (left) and Carnival director Paul Cousins are at Vernon’s Real Canadian Superstore on Anderson Way until 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, selling raffle tickets for a 2019 Polaris Snowmobile plus $1,000 worth of gear from BDM Motorsports. Tickets are $20. Only 5,000 tickets are being sold. The draw will be made Wednesday, Feb. 17. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival prize sled on display

Grand prize in Carnival raffle draw is 2019 Polaris snowmobile and $1,000 in gear; tickets $20

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

Crystal Johns used her lunch break to film her audition video for the Vancouver Canucks.
VIDEO: Former Vees anthem singer wants to bring her voice to the Canucks

Crystal Johns made her audition tape during a lunch break

Snow covers Main Street in downtown Penticton Monday morning, Jan. 25, 2021.
First snowfall of 2021

Chances of light snow all week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Two Kelowna flights flagged for COVID-19 onboard

The flights were on Jan. 14 and 18

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Most Read