2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 4



First Nations children still facing funding discrimination

In January 2016, the Human Rights Tribunal of Canada (HRTC) ruled that the Government of Canada discriminates against First Nations children living on reserves by failing to provide child welfare services at the same level that exist elsewhere in the country. As a result, the government was required to bring about change to end the disparity in child welfare funding.

After approximately one year, very little has changed, according to Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, who was one of the HRTC complainants, along with the Assembly of First Nations. This prompted a request to have the issue heard at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), on December 9 in Washington, DC. The hearing considered Canada’s treatment of First Nations children, including its non-compliance with HRTC orders.

Just prior to the hearing, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, said, “It is unacceptable for the federal government to discriminate against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist for Canadian children.” May went on further to state, “This underfunding affects the most vulnerable children who live in Canada and results in putting these children at risk.”

The funding shortfall in federally supported schools run by First Nations Bands also continues across Canada. In a report released on December 6, 2016, by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it was highlighted that Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs funding continues to be inadequate in comparison to provincial funding for public education. Part of the difference is due to the fact that federal funding for Band-operated schools often does not account for the higher costs associated with having so many schools located in remote communities.

In the meantime, the First Nations and Family Caring Society, the Assembly of First Nations, and other advocates continue to put pressure on the Trudeau government to comply with the HRTC orders and to follow through on its promises to remove the funding inequities between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada.

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