Toronto – October 16, 2014 – Between October 20th to 24th, the final arguments will be presented at the Human Rights Tribunal regarding the welfare of First Nations Children in Canada. The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (The Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) first filed a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in February 2007. The complaint alleged that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs’ provision of services for First Nations children was inequitable, substandard, and discriminatory under existing legislation. The Attorney General of Canada fought this case from the outset, but now the government is being forced to deal with the facts.
In this timely and precedent-setting case, the Tribunal will have to render a decision within four to six months of hearing the final oral arguments. The Caring Society maintains that the federal government’s provision of First Nations child and family services has, in its own words, been “woefully inadequate” and has contributed to “situations (that) are dire” for First Nations children by placing them at higher risk for child welfare placement and at risk of serious harm. The federal government has also failed to address this inequality despite knowing about the problem for over a decade and having solutions available. Furthermore, the federal government’s provision of First Nations child and family services fails to account for the cultural needs and historical disadvantage of First Nations children and their families.
The Caring Society is therefore seeking compensation for children who were wrongfully removed from their homes due to discriminatory service provision by establishing a trust fund that can be accessed for cultural and wellness services and education. It is also asking the federal government to address discrimination in the current provision of First Nations child and family services and Jordan’s Principle, and to prevent future discrimination from occurring.
For our part, UFCW Canada has long lobbied for the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we have also worked with national partners like the Caring Society to remind the federal government that it is unethical to discriminate against First Nations children and citizens.
This case presents an opportunity to raise the bar in the creation of meaningful measures for First Nations communities across Canada. To find out more information about the upcoming Tribunal, check out www.fnwitness.ca. The hearing will also be televised on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), which can be accessed from the Caring Society’s website or at www.ufcw.ca/socialjustice.