APTN National News
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society has refused funding from the federal government because it doesn’t accept donations from funders that harm children.
Canada didn’t pass the society’s “ethical screen” and it has declined $149,000 in funding from Indigenous Affairs said executive director Cindy Blackstock.
“We don’t accept funds from groups that are harming children or who are violating Indigenous rights,” Blackstock told APTN National News Thursday. “Their conduct falls outside of our ethical screen to receive funds from donors.”
Blackstock’s comments come on the one year anniversary of a historical ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that found Canada guilty of discriminating against First Nations children by chronically underfunding programs and services compared to non-Indigenous children.
Since that ruling, the tribunal has issued two non-compliance orders against Indigenous Affairs for failing to meet standards set by the tribunal said Blackstock, who first launched the human rights complaint nearly 10 years ago, along with the Assembly of First Nations.
The tribunal has called for a compliance hearing to be heard in March.
“I am extremely disappointed in this government,” said Blackstock. “They’ve read the decision, so they know the answers are there. They’ve seen a half billion dollars announced for the birthday party (Canada’s 150th birthday). So they know there’s money out there somewhere. There just seems to be a lack of political and bureaucratic will to get the job done.”
The government has responded in affidavits filed Wednesday to the tribunal it’s provided nearly three quarters of the $71 million earmarked for 2016 for the First Nations Child and Family Services program (FNCFSP). It’s part of $634.8 million funding over five years announced in last year’s budget for FNCFSP. That funding was decided upon before the tribunal made its ruling said Blackstock.
Watch Cindy Blackstock comment on the Wapekeka tragedy
She also said at least $10 million of that stayed in Indigenous Affairs for various costs associated with providing the funding to groups across the country.
She has said there needed to be at least $200 million in immediate funding to try and meet urgent needs.
Indigenous Affairs has also told the tribunal in order to fully comply with the ruling it needs to reform how works with organizations on child welfare.
It says it’s developing a “multi-pronged engagement process” to find out what Indigenous agencies need.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said in an interview with Nation to Nation, a weekly political show to be aired Thursday at 6:30 p.m., she believes her department has “made good progress.”
She echoed what the department stated to the tribunal that reforms are needed.
“Too many kids are being put in care, too many kids are being harmed and kids are dying,” said Bennett, adding the government needs to work with agencies to fix that.
Blackstock said the government already knows what is needed and money should have started flowing immediately to the agencies.
Blackstock said she feels she has let children down because her fight for equality is far from over, but is happy the tribunal is sticking to its order to have the government act.
“What I’m feeling encouraged about is of course we have further hearings in March again to try and force Canada into complying with the order,” she said.
There’s also the matter of Jordan’s Principle – it’s a program described as providing funding for First Nations children who need medical care on-reserve. The federal government has taken the approach the principle is for children with critical illnesses or disabilities.
Bennett said changes to the scope made on July 1 last year have already helped 1,500 kids get treatment they otherwise would not have gotten.
“We believe that is significant process,” she said.
Again, Blackstock said Canada has missed the mark and narrowed the scope despite the tribunal ruling the principle is for all Indigenous children – that they have all the same access to all programs and services, from healthcare to education, that other children have.
“Jordan’s Principle is equitable services across all children and across all services,” said Blackstock. “That’s why they are trying to narrow it because I think it costs them too much … in terms of complying with the order.”
The money INAC earmarked for Blackstock and the society is still available. All Blackstock has to do is sign the agreement.
“We asked that they spend the money on the children instead,” said Blackstock.