Discrimination Against First Nations Children in Canada
“It is so disappointing to see the federal government put its interests ahead of the interests of children again by pursuing these legal technicalities,” Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
The federal government’s underfunding of services for First Nations children living on reserves has created a crisis situation for these children and their families.
Today, more First Nations children are being taken away from their families than at the height of the residential school era. This is happening because their families may not have the resources to meet all their needs, and because child welfare services in First Nations communities also don’t have the resources that are urgently needed to support these families.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that the federal government's budget for children’s services in First Nations communities is at least 22 less per child than what the provincial governments dedicate for child welfare services in other communities. This is despite often greater needs and the higher costs of delivering services in small and remote First Nations communities. As a result, the removal of children from their families – something that is only supposed to happen as a last resort – has become commonplace for underfunded child welfare services that lack the resources to intervene in other ways.
The underfunding of child welfare services is just one example of the ways that First Nations children living on reserve are denied fair and equitable access to government services such as education, safe housing, and clean water – services that are necessary to enjoy their fundamental human rights.
In 2007, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society filed a complaint that the underfunding of child welfare services is a violation of Canadian Human Rights Act. After a lengthy process in which federal officials repeatedly sought to have the case thrown out on technical grounds, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in January 2016 that the systemic underfunding of First Nations child and family services was discriminatoyr and must end.