Chief Kevin Hart enters court in Winnipeg on Thursday, February 22, 2018. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to oppose a judicial review of an order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that expanded First Nations children’s eligibility to receive public services under Jordan’s Principle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Chief Kevin Hart enters court in Winnipeg on Thursday, February 22, 2018. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to oppose a judicial review of an order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that expanded First Nations children’s eligibility to receive public services under Jordan’s Principle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Feds’ challenge of ruling on First Nations children ‘a slap in the face’: AFN

Ottawa announced before Christmas it would seek a judicial review of the decision

The federal government’s appeal of a ruling that expanded First Nations children’s rights to public services is “a slap in the face,” says the Assembly of First Nations.

The November ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal widened the applicability of Jordan’s Principle, a rule that says that when governments disagree about who’s responsible for providing services to First Nations children, they must help a child in need first and argue over the bills later.

In November, the tribunal ruled that the principle applies to children who live off reserves if they identify as members of a particular First Nation and that nation claims them — even if they don’t have status under the Indian Act — and to children of parents who could legally get status but do not have it.

Effectively, it allows First Nations to decide whether a particular child is entitled to federally funded services, not just the federal government under the Indian Act.

Ottawa announced before Christmas it would seek a judicial review of the decision.

When the case goes to Federal Court, the government will find the Assembly of First Nations there, ready for the fight.

“If you look at the tribunal’s ruling and you look at the reasoning behind Canada submitting a judicial review, it’s flawed,” said Kevin Hart, the AFN’s regional chief for Manitoba, in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Hart said the government challenge of the tribunal’s order “was a stab in the back to us as leadership, but even more so it’s a slap in the face to our First Nations children for the government of Canada to do this in this day and age.”

Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation. He was born with multiple disabilities and spent his whole five years of life in hospital because the federal and Manitoba governments each insisted the other should pay for his care in a special home.

The tribunal based its November decision on several cases of “the tragic consequences of Canada’s discriminatory policy” against First Nations children living off-reserve.

One was the treatment of a 18-month-old First Nations girl living in Toronto, without status under the Indian Act.

The child, who has a rare and potentially life-threatening medical condition known as hyperinsulinism, needed to travel with her parents to Edmonton in November 2018 for an essential scan only available there, according to evidence presented to the tribunal.

The government wouldn’t cover the family’s expenses due to the child’s off-reserve residency and lack of Indian Act status, but the infant’s mother was eligible to be registered and to receive First Nations status under the Indian Act.

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society intervened and covered the medical transportation expenses. Later, the organization co-filed the complaint with the Assembly of First Nations that led to the recent tribunal decision.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a news release in December it’s been fully implementing the tribunal’s order while seeking the court review.

The executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Cindy Blackstock said the government’s news release makes it appear as if the government is expanding services for First Nations children by its own benevolence.

“In fact, (the government) strongly opposed our motion to extend services to First Nations children without status, off reserve,” she said in an interview.

Blackstock said the lack of essential services, decent housing and safe drinking water has pushed many Indigenous families to live off reserves.

“They have to live off reserve and then they’re denied services by the federal government because they live off reserve,” she said. “That’s wrong.”

The organization also filed a notice to appear in Federal Court, opposing the government’s appeal.

Indigenous Services Canada said in a statement it’s seeking the review because “it was not within the tribunal’s statutory jurisdiction to issue such a decision.”

The department said the tribunal’s decision was made without broad participation of First Nations communities across Canada.

Hart described the tribunal’s order as a “historic ruling” because it goes beyond the Indian Act and supports First Nations’ right to determine who the members of their nations are.

“The ruling from the tribunal is supportive of First Nations right of self-determination and self-governance, not interfering,” he said. “In addition, Canada has made a number of unilateral changes to Jordan’s Principle over these last few years. And these changes were made without consultation of First Nations.”

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Veteran Henry Kriwokon has his photo taken by the Western as he celebrates his 99th birthday with friends at the Cellar in Downtown Penticton. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)
Turning 101, Penticton veteran looks back on life

Henry Kriwokon was one of the soldiers in the famous ‘Wait for me, Daddy’ photo

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

Most Read