Today’s Human Rights Tribunal confirmation of fiscal discrimination towards First Nation child welfare long overdue; now Canada must invest in our children, families, and communities
TORONTO, ON (Jan 26, 2016) --- Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day calls today’s Human Rights Tribunal Ruling a turning point for Canada and the right step towards reconciliation.
“First Nation children have been trapped in a vicious cycle of underfunding, poverty, despair and dysfunction since the days of the residential school system. Today’s decision is massive, probably the most important human rights decision regarding First Nations this decade, and we think it will mark a turning point for Canada as a whole.
A spotlight has been put on a system that neglects children and destroys families, just like residential schools. Far too many of our children in care become sad statistics later in life -- homeless, incarcerated, missing and murdered. But we are now optimistic that the current federal and Ontario governments will work with Ontario First Nations to create a path that has been set for renewal and healing.
Since 2008, when the human rights complaint against Canada was first filed, the Chiefs of Ontario participated as an interested party due to the Canada-Ontario 1965 Indian Welfare Agreement, which enables the provision of provincial child welfare programs on-reserve. Ontario is reimbursed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada at a rate of 93%.
This agreement has not been updated to ensure compliance with important provincial legislation. It excludes new areas of services that are available off-reserve and results in denials of services and adverse effects for First Nations children and families. Increased funding is only one significant step of many towards securing our rightful place in Canada.
We are confident that both the federal and the Ontario governments will take this decision seriously and work with Ontario First Nations to improve conditions on reserves – not only because we now know that the law and the basic idea of equality require it – but because it is the right thing to do if we are going to achieve a positive Nation to Nation relationship.
The federal and provincial government must act upon the first five recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically ‘providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.’
There are exciting times ahead for all peoples living in Canada – whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous. This decision shows us that the new government’s promises are well founded in Canadian law, and the time is NOW to move forward together.
By ending the policies of discrimination and neglect, we will create a new era of hope and renewal for First Nations and for all Canadians. However, more child welfare funding does not address the root problem. All of the socio-economic determinants of health need to be addressed in order to build happy, healthy communities. Together, we will build a better country for all our children.
The Chiefs of Ontario is a political forum and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook or Twitter @ChiefsOfOntario.
For more information, please contact: Jamie Monastyrski, Communications Phone: 807-630-7087 coo%23org|jamie%23monastyrski