Manitoba condemns Ottawa on discrimination against Indigenous peoples

The Manitoba Legislature voted to condemn the federal Liberals for under funding services to Canada's Indigenous peoples.

Fort Rouge MLA Wab Kinew put forward the motion to condemn Ottawa for inaction on Tribunal ruling

Jordan Anderson is seen in this 2003 video provided by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Anderson, who was from the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, was born in 1999 with a complex genetic disorder that needed specialized care. He died in 2005 at the age of four. (Submitted by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs)

The Manitoba Legislature passed a motion to condemn the federal Liberals for under funding social services to Canada's Indigenous peoples.

On Wednesday, NDP MLA Wab Kinew put forward the motion to that effect, reminding the House of a months-old ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that found Ottawa guilty of discriminating against Indigenous kids in its delivery of child welfare services.

"In a province like ours, that has huge impacts on our society," Kinew said. "More kids in care, more challenges getting educated, more demands on our health system."

Wednesday marked the nine-month anniversary of the Jan. 26 ruling, which found on-reserve child welfare services received much less support than off-reserve services and called on the government to "cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it."

NDP MLA Wab Kinew put forward a motion in Legislature to condemn the federal Liberals for inaction on the January ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. (CBC)

Months of inaction

Federal inaction since the ruling has prompted the Tribunal to issue two individual failure-to-comply orders in April and September, ordering immediate action from the government.

Compliance would require a $155 million investment this year and observance of Jordan's Principle, named after Jordan River Anderson, a five-year-old boy with complex needs who died in hospital in 2005 after a protracted two-year battle between the federal and Manitoba governments over his home care costs.

According to the principle, when a patient needs medical treatment, that treatment should be provided immediately, and any issues over which level of government should foot the bill must be resolved afterward.

Cindy Blackstock is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Of Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada which spearheaded the original case, said in September the government has done virtually nothing to address the issue.

"This is 2016," said Blackstock on Wednesday. "You cannot say to a group of children that the federal government is going to give you less in education, less in child welfare, less in health because of your race. That has to end."

Placing blame 'counterproductive,' Premier says

Premier Brian Pallister told Legislature his government supports the sentiment of the provincial NDP motion, but not the tone.

"Finding fault is counterproductive in most cases, and I think in this case in particular," Pallister said during question period on Wednesday.

"The only objection I have to the resolution is its accusatory tone," Pallister said. "I think it's a tremendously difficult number of files we're talking about, I think we all understand that, and I think there's been good and bad, quite frankly, in every administration including the one that I was a part of federally."

Pallister was the Member of Parliament in Ottawa for Portage-Lisgar for eight years and served as former prime minister Stephen Harper's Indian Affairs critic.

Premier Brian Pallister says the NDP motion to condemn Ottawa is "accusatory" and could be counterproductive. (CBC)

Federal NDP put pressure on Ottawa

Kinew's motion in Manitoba legislature comes a day before a similar scene is slated to play out in Ottawa.

On Thursday, the federal NDP says it will introduce a motion calling on the government to comply with the ruling, first with an immediate $155-million cash injection, then with a funding plan for future years. The party says it will also ask the government to adopt Jordan's Principle.

After two failure-to-comply orders, Blackstock said she's not sure the motion will be enough to spur action, but she welcomes the effort.

"I think the more Canadians understand that the federal government is racially discriminating against 163,000 children, in ways that are actively, as the Tribunal found in its ruling, actively separating another generation of children from their families — I think Canadians will be hopefully writing to their Members of Parliament and saying, 'We expect you to vote yes on this.'"

With files from The Canadian Press, Peter Zimonjic and Karina Roman