By Samuel Miller
Desk Reporter, North America and Oceania

OTTAWA, Canada — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled on Tuesday the federal government has discriminated against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere. In its ruling, the tribunal found First Nations are adversely impacted by the services provided by the government and, in some cases, denied services as a result of the government’s involvement.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Located in Ottawa. (Photo Courtesy of National Post)

The government is committing to “significantly increase” funding for First Nations child welfare programs.

In its ruling, the tribunal found that funding formula used by the federal First Nations Child and Family Services Program and related agreements with the provinces and territories have resulted in the denial of child welfare services on reserves. The tribunal also found cases in which there was a financial incentive for the government to remove children living on reserves from their parents’ care and place them in foster care, even though that’s not the standard of care off reserves.

The decision was hailed as a “win not only for First Nations but for all of Canada” by Carrier Sekani Family Services director Mary Teegee.

“If you don’t give a child a good start at life, they don’t have that good of a chance to become strong adults…and if we are not providing what they need to live up to their human potential, that’s a loss not only for Canada but for the world,” Teegee said.

The decision goes on to state the government must cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it. Furthermore, it calls for the redesign of the child welfare system and its funding model, urging the use of experts to ensure First Nations are given culturally appropriate services.

The quasi-judicial body was ruling on a 2007 complaint from the Assembly of First Nations and The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCSC), who had argued the federal government failed to provide First Nations children the same level of services that exist elsewhere.

Funding for on-reserve child welfare services has been pegged at 22 to 34 per cent lower than for provincially-funded off-reserve counterparts, the FNCFCSC said in a press release.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the tribunal’s ruling presents an immediate opportunity to fix the system. He said he expects to see the funding gap addressed in the upcoming federal budget.

“In this great country there is no room for discrimination and racism. To all the young children that have gone through the failed system, we want to ensure them they’re not forgotten.” Bellegarde said during a news conference.

For more information, please see:

BBC News — Canada short-changed First Nation children – court ruling – 26 January 2016

CBC News — Canada discriminates against children on reserves, tribunal rules – 26 January 2016

CTV News — Ottawa to increase funding for First Nations children after human rights ruling – 26 January 2016

National Post — Federal government discriminated against First Nations children through welfare funding: human rights tribunal – 26 January 2016

Prince George Citizen — Tribunal rules in favour of First Nations on child welfare complaint – 26 January 2016

Reuters — Canada government discriminated against aboriginal children: tribunal – 26 January 2016

Toronto Sun — Federal government discriminated against First Nations children: Tribunal – 26 January 2016

Author: Samuel Miller