Wednesday January 27, 2016

Discrimination against children on reserves systemic, tribunal rules

Cindy Blackstock reacts to human rights decision 2:43

Listen 19:54
"This is a complete victory for children. It strips away any sensibility that First Nations children are being treated fairly by the government of Canada today." - Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring 

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled unequivocally ruled on Tuesday that the government of Canada discriminates against children on reserves. They don't receive the same level of welfare services as off-reserve children do, even though the need is greater.
 

The number of nights that First Nations children have spent away from their families between 1989 to 2012? — 66 million nights, 187,000 years of childhood. 

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Shawn Atleo, who was a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations at the time, is holding a sign behind a young aboriginal boy at a demonstration in 2006, in B.C. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Lost years of childhood were flagged as a priority in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report last year. But this fight dates back much further than that. Cindy Blackstone and the Assembly of First Nations lodged their complaint nearly a decade ago, in 2007. But the Conservative government made multiple attempts to have it thrown out.Hearings eventually started in 2013.

"Why did we have to bring the government of Canada to court to get them to treat First Nation children fairly?" - Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring 

The country's new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett promised a new approach after hearing the tribunal ruling and pledged to "reform the system of child welfare and fund it equitably with the other children in Canada."

For frontline workers who have been actively involved in working with aboriginal children across this country, the findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal aren't surprising. They have seen first hand how the discriminatory underfunding for Indigenous welfare programs has affected the well-being of aboriginal children                                  
 

Guests include: 

  • Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s first Representative for Children and Youth.
  • Cora Morgan, family advocate for First Nations families dealing with Child and Family Services, working for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
  • Theresa Stevens, executive director of the Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services
     

This segment was produced by The Current's Catherine Kalbfleisch, Ines Colabrese and Marino Greco.