The following series of articles should be required reading for Canadians in this 150th Anniversary year.
October 6, 2016
The long history of discrimination against First Nations children:
The unequal provision of health and social services for First Nations children has been documented for more than a century. Is this the moment when the wider public will demand action?
by Cindy Blackstock
The tribunal heard from 25 witnesses, including seven government officials, over 72 days of hearings held between February 2013 and October 2014. The historical significance of the hearings cannot be overstated. This is the first time I know of that a developed country was on trial for its contemporary treatment of Indigenous children before a body that could make enforceable orders. The evidence of the discrimination was overwhelming and shown most profoundly and poignantly by government documents. The federal government even pulled its own expert witness after its own report, conducted by KPMG, came within 1 percent of our calculations of the child welfare funding shortfall.
January 17, 2017
Ottawa was ordered to comply with the principle in January by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal after a nine-year battle led by Blackstock’s group, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations.
In the documents, the government describes the various choices as a “menu of possible options” for abiding by the tribunal’s ruling, including the cost and policy ramifications of each.
For Blackstock, those choices add up to nothing short of discrimination.
“They are exploring ways to make a public relations gesture on Jordan’s principle but falling short on compliance,” she said in an interview.
There remains a chronic lack of mental health services for Indigenous youth across Canada, Blackstock said. She cited the example of Wapekeka First Nation, a remote northern Ontario reserve where two 12-year-old girls died by suicide earlier this month.
“These mental health services are available for every other kid and they are not available to First Nations kids,” she said. “The government knows about it and yet they are not paying for it, with tragic results.”
Federal government fails on First Nations child health delivery, says advocate ~ By Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press
Wednesday January 25, 2017
Indigenous leaders give Trudeau government failing grade on delivering promises
“This was a legally-binding ruling where the Canadian government was found to be racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children and they were ordered to immediately stop,” Blackstock tells Walker. “They didn’t do it.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued two noncompliance orders against the Canadian government.
Blackstock says that complying with the orders means an immediate investment of a minimum of $155 million for child welfare, “to give these kids a fighting chance to grow up in the families.”
“A second piece is they have to fully implement something called ‘Jordan’s principle’ which is to ensure that all First Nations children can access government services on the same terms as other kids.”
March 2, 2017
The ruling and subsequent contempt orders required an immediate injection of $155 million dollars for child welfare to make up the shortfall. The government was also ordered to immediately spend $120 million dollars implementing Jordan’s Principle which would give First Nations children living on reserve access to the same medical and therapeutic services and supports (things like wheelchairs and crutches) as non-Indigenous children.
The Liberal government and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) have spent over $500 thousand dollars fighting the issue in court, and continue, in the context of ongoing compliance hearings, to refuse mediation and contest the order. In the meantime Indigenous children as young as eight continue to die of suicide due to federal denial of adequate prevention funding and infants of rheumatic fever from lack of on-reserve medicine.
This example of racialized discrimination is far from singular. Rather it is evidence of the pernicious colonial fabric from which contemporary Canadian political-economy continues to be woven. The government’s ability to ensure and define property rights is dependent on the suspension of Indigenous territorial and jurisdictional authority, and this in turn is crucial to its ability to attract investment and generate resource revenues.
Canada’s is a national economy premised on access to contested lands and resources. And this (as Cindy Blackstock has well noted) is reinforced in fiscal policy. The government’s refusal to meet the terms of the HRT ruling reminds us that Canada’s economy systematically devalues Indigenous life.
March 2nd, 2017
In a recent interview on CBC Radio’s The Current, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett boasted that the federal government was spending “almost $200 million” on the well-being of Indigenous children.
Not only is there no evidence Canada is spending $200 million, but internal documents obtained through Access to Information by York University’s Anna Stanley and reviewed by PressProgress suggest money Bennett claims to be earmarked for the well-being of Indigenous children is being spent to “attract mining investment” instead.
In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by offering up to 38% less in spending for welfare programs.
Then last November, Liberal MPs voted unanimously in favour of an NDP motion to address the funding gap through an immediate injection of $155 million to make up for the shortfall.
Despite this, the government has continued to drag its feet while at the same time touting its record on indigenous rights.
According to the 2016 federal budget, the Liberals allocated $71 million towards “ensuring the safety and well-being of First Nations children” for 2016-2017 – only 54% of what’s required to close the gap…
Canada 150: What is there for Indigenous people to ‘celebrate,’ exactly?
by Doreen Nicoll, March 2, 2017
Stephen Paquette, a member of the Anishinaabe from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, regularly meets with non-Indigenous individuals and groups to encourage truth and reconciliation between Aboriginal founding nations and Canadians. He’s co-chair of the Halton District School Board’s Indigenous Education Advisory Council. He sat on the Toronto Police Service’s Aboriginal Consultative Committee for 13 years.
In December, Paquette wrote to the prime minister and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, among others, on the language used by various levels of government to mark Canada 150 events.
In his letter, Paquette requests the word “celebrating” be replaced by the word “acknowledging.” He heard back from Wynne, but it was just to say that she has passed his letter along to David Zimmerman, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“As an individual who goes into the school system on a regular basis to educate students and teachers about the realities of Canada’s last 150 years,” Paquette wrote, “it would be both an injustice and an insult to all First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to suggest that we should ‘celebrate’ the last 150 years of Canada’s history.”
March 3, 2017
The Liberal Government Minister in charge of this portfolio is not actually helping when dodging her government’s obligation to make this right.
Ending Discrimination Against Indigenous Children Requires More Than Money
by the Hon. Carolyn Bennett
Surely Canada isn’t too poor to come up with $155 million? What can possibly be more important than the welfare of children? When children are denied the necessities of life due to the Federal government’s funding shortfall, money is most certainly the first step.
I can’t celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday when the Canadian government which supposedly represents me only pays lip service to Truth and Reconciliation while continuing it’s unrelenting policy of systemic and institutional racism toward First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
The best I can do is acknowledge the last 150 years of Canada’s history.
And buy a t-shirt.