Indigenous

Indigenous organization says it's taking Ottawa to court over 'discriminatory' COVID-19 aid

An organization that represents off-reserve status and non-status First Nations people, Métis and southern Inuit is taking Ottawa to court over what it says is inadequate and "discriminatory" COVID-19 aid funding. 

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples says it's received $250K in COVID-19 funding

Robert Bertrand, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, says 'the federal government has abandoned its fiduciary responsibility.' (CBC )

An organization that represents off-reserve status and non-status First Nations people, Métis and southern Inuit is taking Ottawa to court over what it says is inadequate and "discriminatory" COVID-19 aid funding. 

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) filed for a judicial review with the Federal Court on Wednesday seeking to overturn the amount of federal COVID-19 funding provided to the organization.

CAP says the small amount of funding allotted to the Indigenous people the organization represents compared to what other organizations received, amounted to discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, according to its Federal Court filing. 

"The application seeks to address the fact that despite the federal government's laudable goals, the funding allocations have been discriminatory and at the expense of the doubly-disadvantaged Indigenous population served by CAP," said CAP in a statement issued Wednesday. 

"The large majority of Canada's Indigenous population lives off-reserve and this court action addresses the needs of this population," said the statement. 

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller's office could not provide immediate comment. Miller has said more COVID-19 funding will become available for off-reserve and urban Indigenous people.

CAP says it represents 90,000 Indigenous people but received $250,000 in COVID-19 funding from Indigenous Services Canada, which amounted to $25,000 for each of its 10 affiliated regional organizations. The organization's board rejected the funding as inadequate and is seeking $16 million.

"It is simply not possible for CAP… and its [affiliated organizations] to provide any meaningful relief both to the many thousands of off-reserve Indigenous peoples it actively supports," said the statement from the organization.  

ISC divided the $305 million fund set aside for Indigenous communities by providing $215 million to First Nations represented by the Assembly of First Nations, $45 million to Inuit land claim organizations represented by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and $30 million to Métis organizations that are members of the Métis National Council, according to the filing. 

The federal government set aside $15 million in COVID-19 for Indigenous organizations providing services to Indigenous people living in urban centres or off-reserve. The National Association of Friendship Centres received $3.75 million to distribute among its 100 organizations. 

"The enormous disparity between the funding allocation to [CAP] and its [affiliates] and the funding provided through other recognized national Indigenous representative organizations discriminates against the 90,000 Indigenous Canadians that [CAP and its affiliates] expected their programs to reach, on the basis of Aboriginality-residence, race, ethnic origin, and/or status under the Indian Act," said the court filing.

The organization is asking the Federal Court to quash Indigenous Services's decision to give the organization $250,000 and send it back to the minister or cabinet, according to the court filing. The filing argues the amount ran contrary to the fiduciary relationship between Canada and the people CAP represents.

CAP is also seeking materials around the ISC's discussions on allocating the funds and on its decision to provide CAP with $250,000. 

The statement said Ottawa's lack of funding contravened the 2016 Daniels decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that found the federal government had responsibilities toward Métis and non-status First Nations people. 

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