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Canada accused of continued short-changing of First Nations kids, despite order to stop

Dr. Cindy Blackstock speaks at the International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect conference in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock speaks at the International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect conference in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press

Canada has been accused of failing to comply with a legal order to remedy discriminatory child welfare funding for First Nations families.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a non-compliance motion Thursday on a 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruling that said families on reserve and in Yukon are denied equitable child welfare services.

Read more: Human Rights Tribunal finds Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children

The landmark ruling shed light on discrepancies between funding on and off reserves, finding Canada discriminated against families on reserves.

Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock said this is the ninth time her organization has filed a non-compliance motion on the order.

“The stunning thing is we had to file a case to just get basic fairness for First Nations kids in the first place,” Blackstock told Global News.

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“The second thing is how aggressively Canada has fought against implementing the order.”

Ottawa funds public services for children on reserves and in Yukon, while services for all other Canadian children are funded by provincial and territorial governments.

The 2016 ruling ordered Canada to reform its First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program, which funds prevention and protection services.

The Caring Society argues Canada has repeatedly failed to move on the order, so First Nations families are still being short-changed.

The federal government’s funding agreements with the provinces and territories have not been amended to reflect the CHRT ruling, now five years old, the non-compliance motion says.

Read more: 5 things to know about landmark ruling on First Nations child welfare case

“Canada has taken inadequate steps to redress discrimination suffered by First Nations children and families living in communities that are not served by FNCFS agencies,” the motion says.

Indigenous Services Canada, which is responsible for the FNCFS program, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. ISC’s website says it’s committed to reforming the program, which includes implementing the tribunal’s orders.

That hasn’t happened yet, Blackstock said, so the federal government continues to deny First Nations children an equitable chance to succeed.

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“When we look at the overrepresented rates of First Nations children in child welfare, a lot of that could be dealt with if First Nations children were funded equitably across public services,” Blackstock said.

“It makes no economic sense to try to cheap out on the backs of kids.”

The Caring Society wants the CHRT to order Canada to develop an alternative funding system. The current funding formula focuses more on population than children’s needs, Blackstock said.

“We need to go to where the evidence is and build an approach from there,” she said.

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