Canada still discriminating against First Nations kids, advocate says
'The federal government doesn't want to do anything in the short-term,' says Cindy Blackstock
Even with a recent landmark ruling, Canada hasn't done anything to stop discriminating against First Nations kids, child advocate Cindy Blackstock says.
On January 26 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government discriminates against children living on reserves by failing to provide them with the same quality of welfare services available to children elsewhere in the country.
That decision came with an order to stop the practice and was followed by a vow from the government not to appeal the decision.
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But Blackstock, executive director of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society — which launched the initial human rights complaint against Ottawa in 2007 — said nothing has happened.
"The federal government doesn't want to do anything in the short-term," Blackstock said. "They want to just continue with study and that makes me nervous."
Immediate relief requested
Weeks after the tribunal's decision, the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society submitted documents outlining what the federal government could do to address the lack of services for child welfare systems on reserves, including steps that could immediately be taken.
These first steps — outlined on the Caring Society's website — include an injection of $109 million for First Nation child welfare agencies across Canada and a public announcement that the federal government will begin working with agencies to reform the on-reserve child welfare system.
However, Blackstock claims the federal government has only sent a letter that indicated that they're studying the issue first.
"What's really important is not what government says. What's really important is what government does when it comes to First Nations kids," said Blackstock.
The Assembly of First Nations said they will also by filing submissions on immediate relief to the tribunal, however, they wouldn't say what those recommendations will be.
Children at risk
CBC asked Indigenous Affairs what action has been taken since the tribunal decision. A spokesperson emailed a link to a joint statement first issued by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in January.
These little kids are out there and they're still suffering from this discrimination.- Cindy Blackstock, First Nation Child and Family Caring Society
"Child and family services issues are complex and require constructive dialogue through a renewed relationship built on trust and partnership," the statement reads. "Together, we will make the right changes for better outcomes for First Nations children."
Blackstock says the government is simply stalling and the lack of movement is putting First Nation children at risk.
"These little kids are out there and they're still suffering from this discrimination."
Hear Cindy Blackstock in conversation with Rosanna Deerchild, on Unreserved, CBC Radio One, 7:00 p.m. Sunday and 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.
With files from Unreserved, CBC Radio One