APTN National News
If the federal government won’t abide by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on First Nations children, Cindy Blackstock says she’ll take them to the Federal Court.
“We see this as a track to the Federal Court,” said Blackstock Tuesday on the eve of a non-compliance hearing that is to begin at the human rights tribunal.
The tribunal called the hearing to examine why the federal government has yet to abide by a Jan. 2016 ruling that it discriminates against First Nation children.
The three-day hearing begins Wednesday in Ottawa but in its most recent filing the government has said the tribunal can’t force them to do anything.
“The tribunal does not have the statutory authority to enforce its own orders,” wrote the Department of Justice, which is headed up by Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations.
Instead, the department said the tribunal should have a little more faith the government will execute the ruling.
“They should generally operate under a presumption that their rulings will be executed with reasonable diligence or good faith,” wrote the department.
Since its January 2016 ruling, where it determined Ottawa racially discriminates against First Nations children by underfunding programs compared to what non-Indigenous children receive under provincial programs, the tribunal has issued two non-compliance orders.
Blackstock said if the federal government didn’t believe the tribunal had authority to enforce its own orders then why did the feds agree to the ruling?
She also questions why the federal government didn’t seek a judicial review if it never intended to fully comply with the ruling.
“Tomorrow we are going to (the tribunal) because Canada has failed to observe three legal orders to stop racially discriminating against 165,000 little kids,” said Blackstock.
She said the government has said it can’t move forward until it finishes it’s “engagement strategy” that has Ottawa talking to groups and organizations to determine their need.
“We asked them what is it that you need to know that you don’t know? They have no idea,” said Blackstock. “They don’t know when this engagement is going to be finished.”
Blackstock is calling on the Minister of Youth to step in – that’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“There certainly can’t be a more important issue for the Minister of Youth then to end racial discrimination of its own government towards kids,” said Blackstock. “He needs to take a leadership role in this and demand his government come into full compliance right now.”
She estimated the government is at about 30 per cent compliant.
The government has said in affidavits 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.
Blackstock has maintained 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.
Blackstock first filed the human rights complaint over 10 years ago, along with the Assembly of First Nations. The former Conservative government tried multiple times to have it dismissed.