APTN National News
The federal government said Tuesday it met a deadline set by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on implementing “Jordan’s Principle” on jurisdictional disputes involving the health care of First Nation children.
Ottawa said it was now expanding Jordan’s Principle to not only include jurisdictional disputes with the provinces but also between federal departments, according to a letter to the tribunal from Justice Canada lawyer Jonathan Tarlton dated Tuesday. Tarlton fought to have the case dismissed while under the Harper government.
Tarlton’s letter also said Jordan’s Principle now covers all First Nations children on reserve, not just those with multiple disabilities.
“Canada is committed to the health and safety of First Nations children and will continue to take concrete action on this urgent and key priority,” said Tarlton, in the letter.
The federal human rights tribunal released an “update order” late last month in a follow-up to its landmark January ruling on First Nation child welfare services. In its update, the tribunal said Ottawa was moving too slowly implementing improvements outlined in the ruling which found the federal government discriminated against First Nation children by underfunding on-reserve child welfare services.
Read the government’s letter to the Tribunal here.
The tribunal’s order gave the federal Indigenous Affairs department two weeks to implement Jordan’s Principle. The deadline was Tuesday.
Jordan’s Principle basically requires the government to provide the health care First Nation children need before sorting out which jurisdiction, whether federal or provincial, is responsible for paying.
Tarlton’s letter said Indigenous Affairs and Health Canada have written the provinces and territories to begin “jurisdictional discussions related to Jordan’s Principle.”
Cindy Blackstock, president of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society, said she found Tarlton’s letter “vague” but needed more time to fully analyze the content and whether it met the spirit and intent of the tribunal’s ruling.
“There is no mention of a transparent process for reviewing prior and current cases given Canada’s history of 100 per cent refusal of Jordan’s Principle cases,” said Blackstock, in an email.
Ottawa now faces another deadline in two weeks set by the tribunal on overhauling the on-reserve child welfare system. In its updated order, the tribunal said Indigenous Affairs needed to provide a “comprehensive report” that would include budget allocations for First Nation child welfare agencies, detailed calculations of those budgets and adjustments from the tribunal’s January decision, along with implementation timelines.
The tribunal also said it would “supervise the implementation of its orders by way of regular detailed reports” from Indigenous Affairs.
January’s tribunal decision marked a resounding victory for Blackstock who first launched the human rights complaint, with the Assembly of First Nations, in 2007.