UBCIC Demands Action on Historic Human Rights Decision Recognizing First Nations Children’s Right to Equal Funding

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – January 26, 2016) Today the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a landmark decision confirming that First Nations children in Canada have received inequitable child welfare funding, that this discrimination must cease, and that they must receive equitable child welfare funding going forward.  163,000 First Nations children are affected by the case and the child welfare funding shortfalls on reserves and in the Yukon are 22% to 38.5%.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated, “This critical and welcome decision clearly signals the need for urgent, collective action to achieve equity across all federal services for First Nations children. We applaud the tireless and successful efforts of Cindy Blackstock in continuing to advocate for the rights of First Nations children. We expect the Trudeau government to fully embrace this decision and begin implementation, consistent with its commitment to reconciliation and to implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Quite frankly, we are extremely annoyed and disgusted that it took a nine year court case to recognize the glaringly obvious- racial discrimination against our children, or any children, is unlawful and completely intolerable.”

On February 27, 2007, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on the well-documented inequitable child welfare funding for First Nations and the improper and discriminatory implementation of Jordan’s Principle. First Nations children continue to be drastically overrepresented in child welfare care. Today, in British Columbia, 60% of the children in care are Indigenous, although Indigenous children only make up approximately 9% of the total children in B.C.

The Tribunal found that Canada’s design, management and control of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program, along with its corresponding funding formulas and the other related provincial/territorial agreements have resulted in denials of services and created various adverse impacts for many First Nations children and families living on reserves. Discriminatory practices include the failure to properly implement Jordan’s Principle, which aims to ensure that First Nations children can access government services on the same terms as other children.

“We are looking forward to working with the Trudeau government, who we expect to reverse the Harper regime’s pattern of delaying and obstructing justice for Indigenous children,” stated Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of UBCIC. “There must be a fundamental transformation in the way that Indigenous children and families are served so that the legacy of systemic racism is countered by even more Indigenous children being in culturally-connected, loving, safe, permanent, and properly and fully supported home environments.”

UBCIC is calling for immediate action to be taken including:

  • Appropriate investment in services for Indigenous children to address the legacy of discrimination, and ensure a just future, as well as housing investments for First Nations communities given the role inadequate housing plays in caregiving for Indigenous children.
  • Support for First Nations to take control over permanency planning and placement for First Nations children, to ensure cultural connectedness and stemming the cultural harm that has resulted from funding inequities.
  • Establishment of a joint action plan for a new legal and policy framework for Indigenous children, including the roles for Indigenous laws and governments in exercising jurisdiction consistent with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 
  • Establishment of a national and independent body with significant Indigenous involvement, such as the establishment of an Office of a National Commissioner for Children and Youth, with a special focus on ensuring equity for Indigenous children, and all children, including overseeing reforms of INAC’s processes, policies, and laws. 
  • Identification of a strategy to make Jordan’s Principle work better, consistent with the TRC Calls to Action, to ensure that First Nations children on-reserve do not suffer denials, delays or disruption in services.

Chief Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of UBCIC concluded, “It is shameful that the federal government wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money trying to keep First Nations child welfare out of court. The proven inequity in funding for First Nations child welfare is a continuation of Canada’s pattern of systemic racism including the residential school system, which unfairly and perniciously targeted First Nations children. We honour the persistence and resilience of First Nations across Canada in fighting for the rights of our children.”

Media inquires:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Phone: (604) 684-0231
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Phone: (604) 684-0231

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BACKGROUND: FINDINGS AND REMEDY for First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)

Findings

Non-exhaustively, the main adverse impacts found by the Panel are:

  • The design and application of the Directive 20-1 funding formula, which provides funding based on flawed assumptions about children in care and population thresholds that do not accurately reflect the service needs of many on-reserve communities. This results in inadequate fixed funding for operation (capital costs, multiple offices, cost of living adjustment, staff salaries and benefits, training, legal, remoteness and travel) and prevention costs (primary, secondary and tertiary services to maintain children safely in their family homes), hindering the ability of FNCFS Agencies to provide provincially/territorially mandated child welfare services, let alone culturally appropriate services to First Nations children and families and, providing an incentive to bring children into care because eligible maintenance expenditures are reimbursable at cost.
  • The current structure and implementation of the EPFA funding formula, which perpetuates the incentives to remove children from their homes and incorporates the flawed assumptions of Directive 20-1 in determining funding for operations and prevention, and perpetuating the adverse impacts of Directive 20-1 in many on-reserve communities.
  • The failure to adjust Directive 20-1 funding levels, since 1995; along with funding levels under the EPFA, since its implementation, to account for inflation/cost of living;
  • The application of the 1965 Agreement in Ontario that has not been updated to ensure on-reserve communities can comply fully with Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act.
  • The failure to coordinate the FNCFS Program and other related provincial/territorial agreements with other federal departments and government programs and services for First Nations on reserve, resulting in service gaps, delays and denials for First Nations children and families.
  • The narrow definition and inadequate implementation of Jordan’s Principle, resulting in service gaps, delays and denials for First Nations children.

Remedy

The decision states:

[481] AANDC is ordered to cease its discriminatory practices and reform the FNCFS Program and 1965 Agreement to reflect the findings in this decision. AANDC is also ordered to cease applying its narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle and to take measures to immediately implement the full meaning and scope of Jordan's principle.

Within three weeks of the date of this decision, the Panel will contact the parties to determine a process for having its outstanding questions on remedy, including compensation, answered on an expeditious basis.

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