Ottawa has until today to confirm equal child welfare treatment for First Nations

First Nations child welfare advocates are urging the federal government to confirm it will fully implement Jordan's Principle to ensure equal healthcare for Indigenous children by today's deadline set out by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Attawapiskat is 'ground zero' for Jordan's Principle, NDP MP Charlie Angus says

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, centre, talks with children in the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario in April after a suicide crisis provoked a state of emergency. Bennett's office says it will respond to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal about equal child welfare treatment for First Nations. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The federal government has until the end of the day to confirm whether it will fully implement Jordan's Principle to ensure equal healthcare for Indigenous children.

On April 26, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal gave the Department of Indigenous Affairs two weeks to confirm it would implement the policy.

The deadline comes as the tribunal ruled in January that the Canadian government knowingly discriminated against tens of thousands of children on reserves by underfunding child welfare services.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is at the United Nations, where she officially announced that Canada will adopt the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples Tuesday afternoon.

Her office would only say in an email to CBC News that "The Tribunal has asked ... Canada to provide a response and we are providing one."

But Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told CBC News through her lawyer that she expects Ottawa to comply with the deadline.

"She is expecting confirmation that Jordan's Principle is implemented across all federal government services and the federal government, so First Nations children can access public services on the same terms as other kids," said Sébastien Grammond in an email to CBC News. Grammond also works as a professor of law at the University of Ottawa.

After the Liberal government tabled its first budget in March, Blackstock said she was deeply disappointed to see just  $71 million earmarked for child welfare in the first year — a fraction of what she said was needed to restore fairness.

Attawapiskat 'ground zero'

Charlie Angus, NDP critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, also urged the federal government to fully implement Jordan's Principle.

Angus, who represents the Ontario riding that includes the northern community of Attawapiskat spoke out about the mental health crisis affecting the First Nations community.

"Attawapiskat is one of the many communities that is ground zero for the need of Jordan's Principle, whether it's in mental health services for children or child welfare aid," Angus said in Ottawa prior to question period Tuesday.

Angus, who just returned from Attawapiskat, said while he had been invited to take part in the Canadian delegation to the UN, grave conditions in the First Nations reserve prompted him to cancel his trip.

Members of Parliament unanimously adopted Jordan's Principle in the House of Commons in 2007.

Jordan's Principle is named after Jordan River Anderson, a five-year-old boy with complex needs who died in hospital in 2005 after a drawn-out court battle between the federal government and Manitoba over his home care costs.

Blackstock, along with the Assembly of First Nations, launched the lawsuit against the federal government in February 2007.