AFN says Ottawa using 'racist and colonial' policies to restrict services for Indigenous children
Jordan's Principle intended to ensure First Nations children have equitable access to public services
The Assembly of First Nations says Canada's attempt to narrow the list of First Nations children who can access services under Jordan's Principle is linked to the country's long-standing "racist and colonial" policies toward Indigenous Peoples.
Questions about who is considered a First Nations child — and whether that definition should include children living off-reserve, those who are not registered under the Indian Act and those with just one Indigenous parent — are at the heart of arguments being heard in Federal Court Thursday.
The answers will be key to future interpretations of Jordan's Principle, a rule stating that when governments disagree about who is responsible for providing services to First Nations children, they must help the child first and argue over the bills later.
AFN lawyer Stuart Wuttke says Ottawa's attempts to overturn a decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that expanded eligibility for Jordan's Principle ignores the fact that Canada cannot unilaterally define Indigenous identity.
He argues Canada is trying to limit the number of children who can access medical and child welfare services under Jordan's Principle for monetary reasons, and is using the "racist" Indian Act and its "colonialist" custodianship of Indian status to try to achieve this.
But Ottawa's lawyer, Robert Frater, argues the tribunal applied too liberal a definition of who is a First Nations child, and that it overstepped its authority in broadening Jordan's Principle in an attempt to right the wrongs of the Indian Act.