Federal government seeks further delay on First Nations child welfare case

When it comes to child welfare services in First Nations communities, the federal government spends 22 percent less per child than its provincial counterparts provide in other communities. This is despite often greater needs and the higher costs of delivering services in small and remote communities. The federal underfunding of First Nations children’s services has created a crisis situation in which First Nations children are much more likely to be put into foster care because the supports necessary to meet their needs in their own homes and communities simply aren’t available.

The federal government’s longstanding failure to close the funding gap led the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society to file a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2007. Five years later, there still hasn’t been a hearing into the evidence.

The federal government has opposed the case on technical grounds, arguing that the Canadian Human Rights Act should not appy to federal funding decisions affecting the quality of services available in First Nations communities. Last month, a court firmly rejected the federal government’s arguments, clearing the way for a full hearing into the evidence before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Last Friday, however, the federal government appealed this decision.

Reacting to the news that the resolution of the case could be put off yet again, Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society said, “It is so disappointing to see the federal government put its interests ahead of the interests of children again by pursuing these legal technicalities and trying to avoid a full hearing on the discrimination matter.”