The Human Rights Tribunal of Canada has issued a scathing decision criticizing the federal government’s slow action on implementing a policy that would ensure better services for Canada’s First Nations children.
In a landmark ruling announced in January, the tribunal characterized on-reserve services for 163,000 children as “inadequate”, “discriminatory”, and called for immediate action.
The decision was based on “Jordan’s Principle”, a policy named after Jordan Anderson, a five year old Manitoba boy with complicated health issues who died in hospital in 2005.
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Jordan had been in hospital for more than two years while the province of Manitoba and the federal government bickered over who should pay for him to receive care at home.
On Tuesday April 26, the Tribunal sharply rebuked the government’s response to its January order, saying “while it understands a period of time may have been needed to meet with partners and stakeholders and put a framework in place, the Panel did not foresee this order would take more than three months to implement. The order is to ‘immediately implement’, not immediately start discussions to review the definition in the long-term.”
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NDP MP and Critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Charlie Angus characterized the decision as a “slap” to the Liberal government.
“This ruling is monumental in that it is calling out a sitting government over their lackadaisical response to the issue of racist discrimination against Indigenous children,” Angus told 16×9.
“In the area of education, the department of Indigenous Affairs has been maintaining the fiction that there is no funding gap in services.”
In February, 16×9 aired an episode about First Nations access to education, telling the story of how many children are forced to move far away from home just to get an education because their communities don’t have schools.
The story aired against the backdrop of an Ontario Coroner’s Inquiry into the deaths of seven First Nations children who left home to attend high school in Thunder Bay.
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The Tribunal ended its report with an order for the government to confirm the implementation of Jordan’s Principle within two weeks, concluding with the remarks
“This is the season for change. The time is now.”