Child welfare decision

The former head of three First Nation child welfare agencies welcomes the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on First Nations child welfare services.
“It was a great decision for the First Nations,” says Michael Hardy, former head of Dilico, Tikinagan and Anishinaabe Abinoojii child welfare agencies. “Our issue right now is there’s too many children in care. Yes, there may be some funding for that, but at the same time it’s not really strong in having children maintained at home or bringing kids back home.”
Hardy wants to see First Nation communities involved in the development of strategies to deal with the disparity in the level of child welfare services provided to First Nations.
“I’m hoping the strategy listens to the communities and builds up those communities and strengthens those communities,” Hardy says. “That’s where the disparity is and that is where the inequity is in regards to having the voice of the community heard at the child welfare level.”
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling states that: AANDC is ordered to cease its discriminatory practices and reform the FNCFS Program and 1965 Agreement to reflect the findings in this decision. AANDC is also ordered to cease applying its narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle and to take measures to immediately implement the full meaning and scope of Jordan's principle.
“This landmark ruling is a game-changer and will have a dramatic effect on the delivery of child welfare in First Nation communities,” says NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “The Tribunal’s ruling confirms that the federal government is accountable for failing to provide First Nations with the same level of child welfare services as the rest of Canada, which is discriminatory and contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
The human rights complaint was launched by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada in 2007. The case was brought on behalf of 163,000 children after the federal government failed to implement child welfare reforms recommended by several reports documenting inequalities in funding and access to services.
“Since it was launched nearly a decade ago the previous government fought at every turn to have this case it dismissed, and we acknowledge the perseverance of Dr. Cindy Blackstock and everyone involved for holding the government accountable,” Fiddler says. “Equity and reform in child welfare was the top call for action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and this is a historic opportunity for Canada to cease long-standing discriminatory practices against First Nations and start to redress historical inequalities by moving towards reconciliation.”
Regional Chief Isadore Day says the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling is 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,” Day says. “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.”
Day says the Chiefs of Ontario 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.
“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,” Day says. “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.’”