APTN National News
The federal Liberal budget unveiled Wednesday provided no new funding for First Nations child welfare, but it promised to create an “Indigenous Framework on Early Learning and Child Care” at the conclusion of ongoing consultations with First Nations, Inuit and Metis stakeholders.
The Justin Trudeau government is prepared to invest additional dollars into First Nation child welfare and is planning to develop the framework with input from stakeholders before committing to the new funding, said a federal official speaking on background.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau would not say when the new money would surface while responding to a question on the issue from APTN host Todd Lamirande during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“This is of continuing importance to us and this is a dialogue we have to continue,” said Morneau.
While Morneau spoke, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal held a hearing a few blocks away on Ottawa’s failure to comply with a 2016 ruling ordering an end to the discrimination of First Nations children by the continued federal underfunding of on-reserve child welfare services.
The hearing was sparked as a result of a non-compliance motion filed by Cindy Blackstock, the head of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, the Assembly of First Nations, Nishnawbi Aski Nation and the Chiefs of Ontario.
Blackstock and the AFN launched a human rights complaint against Ottawa over its underfunding of First Nations child welfare services in 2007. The human rights complaint also targeted Ottawa’s uneven application of Jordan’s Principle which places the care of First Nations children ahead of jurisdictional disputes over funding.
In a recent filing with the tribunal, Ottawa claimed the quasi-judicial body had no authority to control how the federal government chose to spend dollars or interpret how it should comply with the ruling.
Blackstock has told APTN she may be forced to seek a contempt order against Ottawa with the Federal Court.
Ottawa has argued it is doing all it can on child welfare for the moment. Last year’s budget committed $643 million over five years in new funding for child welfare, with the majority of the dollars flowing in the last two years. The Liberal government set the amount which appeared in the 2016 budget before the tribunal issued its ruling.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has said the system needs deep reform, but it won’t happen without more consultations. Bennett has dispatched a ministerial representative to help conduct the consultations.