Saskatoon

First Nations group urges Ottawa to 'end this racial discrimination' related to child welfare

It has been a year since a damning ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere.

Advocate accuses feds of dragging feet on Human Rights Tribunal ruling

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, says the government is failing to address inequities that exist between welfare programs offered to First Nations children on reserve and the rest of Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

It has been a year since a damning ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the federal government discriminates against children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of welfare services that exist elsewhere.

The complaint was filed in 2007 by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. But whatever sense of victory the organizations might have felt a year ago when the ruling came down has long since faded.

"To see the government now dragging its heels and not complying and really treating it more like a public relations exercise versus getting down to the ground and getting the kids the help they need is very disappointing," said Cindy Blackstock, with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

When the ruling came down, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett agreed with the decision and said her department would soon begin working to come up with solutions.

"My job is to go forward and fix these things," she said at the time.

Government not acting, says Blackstock 

According to Blackstock, that's not happening. She said the government did earmark $61 million in the 2016 federal budget to help address some of the inequities. But, she argued, that's a far cry from the $216 million Blackstock believes is needed immediately.

Blackstock said that Canadians need to stand up and demand action.

"I would like to see citizens pick up the phone and call their member of Parliament and call the prime minister and say, 'We want for Canada's 150th birthday to end this racial discrimination.'"

Blackstock said that if Ottawa can afford to spend millions of dollars on a birthday party, then it should be able to do the right thing for First Nations children.

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