On-reserve child welfare system receives up to 38% less funding than elsewhere
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations and Family Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations, filed a complaint against Ottawa with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in February 2007.
They argued the support the federal government provides for child welfare on reserves is much lower than the support provincial governments give to children off reserves – even though on-reserve needs are greater. Less funding for family support means more children end up in the child welfare system, they said.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal agreed, according to a decision published Tuesday morning that says the federal government's funding model and management of its First Nations child and family services "resulted in denials of services and created various adverse impacts for many First Nations children and families living on reserves."
The decision says the government must "cease the discriminatory practice and take measures to redress and prevent it." It calls for the redesign of the child welfare system and its funding model, urging the use of experts to ensure First Nations are given culturally appropriate services.
The decision also compares on-reserve child welfare to the residential schools system, where "the fate and future of many First Nations children is still being determined by the government." It recommends increasing funding and support to allow First Nations to deliver their own child welfare.
"I can't even believe we had to file a case against the Canadian government so First Nations children have the same chance to grow up in their families as other kids get," Blackstock said, before the decision was made public.
"I'm still shocked by that, even nine years later."In a news release, the Canadian Human Rights Commission applauded the tribunal's ruling.
"This historic decision could have a profound impact on how the government of Canada funds other on-reserve programs and services," wrote Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the human rights commission.