Ottawa – January 26, 2016 – A ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has confirmed that the federal government discriminated against First Nations children by depriving them of equal funding for medical and mental health services. “The government’s own documents showed that funding for these services has been one-third less than what is spent on similar services for other children in Canada,” says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada. The ruling by the tribunal was handed down on Tuesday. “The cost of this discrimination has been broken lives, despair, and hopelessness for tens of thousands of First Nations children and families facing a medical or emotional crisis. What must happen now is action to redress the inequity and repair the damage of decades of discriminatory funding.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling follows a complaint filed under section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It was launched by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (the Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in 2007. UFCW Canada is a national advocacy partner of the Caring Society and its i am a witness campaign calling for equitable funding for First Nations children’s services.
The previous federal government tried eight times to have the complaint dismissed, spending more than $5 million in the process. As a result, the tribunal hearings did not commence until 2013. “This case was brought on behalf of 163,000 little kids, and it was filed in 2007 after the federal government failed to implement reforms on two reports that we jointly did with them showing the inequalities, showing the harms of the underfunding, that it was driving children into care, depriving kids of fundamental health equipment,” says Dr. Cindy Blackstock, the director of the FNCFCS.
“We commend the Caring Society, along with the AFN, in having the courage to launch the legal challenge in the name of democracy and in the face of injustice,” says Meinema, the UFCW Canada leader. “The decision marks a critical step in the reconciliation process between First Nations and
non-indigenous Canadians. What must follow now is action by the Trudeau government to redress the discrimination, and on its pledge to honour the calls to action set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”