Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Government Put on Short Leash by Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Government Put on Short Leash by Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Article excerpt

Trudeau government put on short leash


OTTAWA - As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met indigenous youth in Saskatoon on Wednesday, his government grappled with an order from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal demanding immediate action on the panel's landmark child welfare ruling.

In the scathing order released Tuesday, the tribunal gave the Indigenous Affairs Department two weeks to confirm it has implemented Jordan's Principle -- a policy designed to ensure First Nations children can access services without getting caught in red tape.

The policy, named after a five-year-old who died after a protracted government wrangle over his home care, is personal for Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

Blackstock and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs worked on Jordan River Anderson's case before he died in 2005 after the federal and Manitoba governments spent two years fighting over his home care costs.

"When he passed away, the family immediately asked us 'Can you please make sure this doesn't happen to another kid'?" Blackstock said Wednesday.

Along with the Assembly of First Nations, she went on to become the face of a lengthy legal struggle with the federal government over the underfunding of child welfare on reserve.

In January, the tribunal ruled the government discriminated against First Nations children on racial grounds in its failure to provide the same level of welfare services that exist elsewhere.

Blackstock said the latest order from the tribunal is hopeful, especially because she was bitterly disappointed by the federal government's decision to earmark $71 million for child welfare in the budget -- a sum she said fell far short of what is needed.

"That's the kind of pattern of behaviour that I think I really want to see an end to, going forward," Blackstock said.

"If they really want to end these inequalities, they need to stop just doing things on their own and they need to talk to experts who are working in the field. …

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