Cree teen’s court fight for braces leads to non-insured health benefits policy change - APTN NewsAPTN News

Cree teen’s court fight for braces leads to non-insured health benefits policy change

(An x-ray of Josey Willier’s teeth which her doctor said needed braces to alleviate chronic teeth and jaw pain.)

Editor’s Note: In the story about Josey Willier’s braces, APTN News reported that her braces cost $8,000. APTN was contacted by the office of Jane Philpott, minister of Indigenous Services to say that the braces, originally paid for by the family, only cost $6,000. The federal government did spend $100,000 in legal fees arguing in court that the braces should not be covered under the non-insured health benefits program.

Melissa Ridgen
It was a three-year court battle of David versus Goliath proportions and the victory will have rippling effects for other kids covered by Health Canada’s Non-Insured Health Benefits program.

Josey Willier, from Sucker Creek First Nation in Alberta, was just 13 when she suffered crippling chronic pain from the position of her teeth and jaw.

Her physician said braces were medically necessary but government doctors – who never examined the girl – denied they were needed.

So  NIHB refused to cover the $8,000 treatment.

The family took the government to court and rather than paying for the braces, the federal government spent $100,000 arguing why Canada should not pay.

The case was settled this week.

“We’ve been working with them steadily over the last few months to reach an agreement,” said Josey’s mother Stacey Shiner.

“My mindset was I wouldn’t settle until they changed their policy so this doesn’t happen to other children.”

The deal, terms of which weren’t disclosed, came at the 11th hour this week, just ahead of when the Federal Court of Appeal was to decide on the matter.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Shiner. “It used to be a checked-box scenario of what was required but it leaves so many grey areas. Pain and discomfort are now factors.”

A statement released by the family mentioned Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who was an ally during the court battle.

Blackstock said her agency will be watching to ensure the new orthodontic policy complies with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders on Jordan’s Principle.

According to a statement released by Jane Philpott, minister of Indigenous Services, the department will be updating its non-insured health benefits by June 15 to include more health services for First Nation and Inuit children.

“I am pleased a settlement agreement has been reached relating to orthodontic coverage under the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program,” said Philpott in the statement released Tuesday evening.

“I am confident that the services Indigenous Services Canada provides are contributing to better oral health outcomes for First Nations and Inuit. The orthodontic coverage under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program is comprehensive and based on clinical evidence.”

During the court fight, Josey’s parents paid out of pocket for the braces. She’s had them off now for about a year.



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44 Responses to “Cree teen’s court fight for braces leads to non-insured health benefits policy change”

    Alwaysaskwhy June 10, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    Um my son needs braces and a device that will reshape his jaw b/c it is growing so pointed that his front teeth are starting to flare. No one is going to cover the cost of this for us besides the benefits that we pay into each month. Why is it just FN child orthodontics are going to be covered and not ALL children? Why does the colour of my child’s skin exclude him from the best possible dental care?

    Lorna June 9, 2018 at 10:07 pm #

    My daughter was denied twice, the dentist tried twice and wrote 2 letters to say my daughter needed braces. Nope, they wouldnt approve it. The dentist couldnt understand why….

    Jody June 9, 2018 at 3:33 pm #

    Dennis, you need to educate yourself about where the dollars come from for indigenous people. It is not your tax money, it is Indigenous money held in trust that is dispersed by the government. Also, I am a tax paying indigenous person, as are MANY Indigenous people.

    Val Wood June 8, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

    Would like to respond to comment by dennis danz. Maybe you should be asking why the government is spending $100,000 tax dollars fighting against children’s well-being.

    Earl Linklater June 8, 2018 at 1:40 pm #

    Just take all matters to the Supreme Court Of Canada

    Terry Saxton June 7, 2018 at 6:45 pm #

    I agree this should have never have been contested by the government and hopefully this will fix this problem. If some chiefs are paid over half a million by the same government, duh and then spend 100,000 to save 8000, well I guess there is more then one problem here and the biggest one has yet to be fixed.

    Ginny June 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm #

    Yes, a lot of our First Nations people have had to deal with over crowding and back teeth coming in sideways, like my two daughters have. My two daughters have almost the identical set of teeth, but only on of my teenage daughters, was accepted and the other denied. They both have problems chewing and the daughter that was denied, has had headaches and grinding and locked jaw sometimes. We went through the three appeals for both of them. I want both of them to be able to get braces. If someone could pass this story on Minister Philpott, please do. Thank you. Concerned Indigenous mother from Edmonton.

    sandra beaudry Beaudry June 7, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

    They never pay for dentures, glasses, braces, and drugs that are prescribed by a Doctor. Why have the program if it doesn’t help us??

    Raven June 7, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

    Too much red tape with the NIHB my daughter NEEDS braces and its not for cosmetics and they have made this process nearly impossible its just a frint to pretend like they are helping meanwhile they deny all claims and unless your gonna go to court to fight them what is the use! What piases me off is they wastes 100,000 in court fees! Do you know how many children could have been helped with that money! But hopefully their policy becomes a true one!

    Melinda Chapman June 7, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    Would be nice to see this for all children regardless of race.

    Russ June 7, 2018 at 4:36 am #

    We had to pay over 40 Grand for 2 kid. I’d love to post the pics and see what people thought. My daughter had one tooth spun all the way around both had teeth growing over other teeth. I appealed a couple times. Had to send in the same paperwork over and over. Couldnt handle appealing the 3rd time. Thats what they want. The goverment sucks.

    Karen June 7, 2018 at 12:16 am #

    I have been trying to get my nephew whom I raise braces for a number of years. He’s been refused and I’m in the process of appealing. It is so frustrating watching him suffer with speech and eating and feeling self conscious. I hope this changes things. I hate what the government does without a thought.

    Betty June 6, 2018 at 9:49 pm #

    I had to appeal to Jordan principle for my granddaughters now finally getting their braces end of June

    Myrna Blacksmith June 6, 2018 at 9:14 pm #

    well its about time. When my son was younger he couldn’t get them too. We were told it was for cosmetic reasons and he wasn’t qualified. I guess the excuse now-will be hes over age.

    Val June 6, 2018 at 7:02 pm #

    Great news!!

    Clay Roe June 6, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

    If you have an infection in your ear you go to the doctor if you have an infection in your eyes you see a doctor all of that is covered when is an infection in the mouth going to be considered healthcare? all these dentist that over charge insurance are making a fortune even if they have coverage which usually only covers &2000 dollars which doesn’t cover much especially in alberta , time to let dentist charge for only cosmetic and all else follow under Alberta Health Care only the wealthy can afford premium dental care !

    Nancy Smith June 6, 2018 at 6:37 pm #

    Bravo! And thank to Josey’s family for insisting that a change be made to the orthodontic policy for all children.Who could have imagined that pain and discomfort were not considerations in care of children. Pain is not medical?

    Timothy June 6, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

    I got braces but was passed over for getting my jaw fixed cause of my under bite. This was when I was 12. I’m 41 and I snapped my two upper teeth cause it wasn’t fixed. I’m in consent pain. My teeth are wrecked. I was told it would get worse as I got older. Try finding a denist that will take first nation patients is hard to do in my small city. I’m always being told that I got to pay first…

    Harold June 6, 2018 at 5:36 pm #

    This is an absolutely terrific victory! First Nations should not have to pay for any health related expenses including dental services that include orthodontics. Policy Development by the gov’t should consult with First Nations gov’t, to fulfill the spirit and intent of Treaty.

    Gina Russell June 6, 2018 at 3:18 pm #

    It is time for all elected leaders throughout Canada to fight for their Members health care This is just one story of success, there are many more to be won. What shame on the government to fight, so much for their fiduciary responsibility.

    Shondyl June 6, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

    While I am excited for the change, I am still left with the question as to why Métis are left out of this?

    Métis in the NWT would fall under the ruling, but none of the Métis elsewhere in the country.

      Amanda June 7, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

      Fort Smith Metis Metis would Shondyl?

      Monique June 7, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

      Why is ANY child left out!

    dennis danz June 6, 2018 at 12:53 pm #

    Wow, when are we going to learn that our government can’t be all things for everyone. Now tax payers will be footing the bill for braces. Were already taxed to death and with the deficits were running already; we will be adding more future taxes…..

      Audrey MacDonald June 6, 2018 at 5:32 pm #

      I cant believe that you actually had nerve enough to put your name on a statement like that. you are probably unaware of the amount of money the government has stolen from the native people. so before you think of yourself look into what the government has done. I feel sorry for you as you are so blind.

      Shirley M June 7, 2018 at 12:09 am #

      This is part of a Treaty between First Nations and the Canadian Government that the Canadian Government had been reneging on. This decision by the Canadian Judicial System now is making the Canadian Government uphold their Treaty obligations.

      Shirley M June 7, 2018 at 12:14 am #

      It’s now law that the Canadian Government now move towards fulfilling their Treaty obligations, these Treaties bring the ones made with North American First Nations.

      Rebecca June 7, 2018 at 4:01 am #

      Ummm, hey loser tax payers don’t pay squat for anything involving Natives. Get educated for christ sakes. I get so tired of educating people who are too stupid to know better and find out first before spouting off on public forums.

      Simone June 7, 2018 at 5:17 am #

      The price you pay to live in stolen territory. If you don’t like it, feel free to return to the country of your ancestors.

      Ray Desjarlais June 7, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      Time to pay the rent

      CDanielson June 7, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

      Actually, FN Health and Dental benefits have NOTHING to do with the “taxpayer” (which, BTW, I am one, although I am FN as well), as the funding for these services are paid for out of a Trust Acct that has been set up by the Gov’t of Canada, to provide for the Indigeneous Peoples, to pay for all that was stolen from them. Its an easy Google search, if you are interested to educate yourself, rather than re-spewing the LIE that FN people get stuff for “free”, paid for by us poor, overworked, underpaid “Taxpayers”!

      DM June 7, 2018 at 7:08 pm #

      Dear Sir:
      you have picked the wrong site to make such a comment…
      It is obvious by your response that you know absolutely zero about the First Nations (original people) of Canada.. Nor do you know much (if anything) about the history and treaties between the Canadian government and the Original People of this continent….
      Nor do you know that the MAJORITY of Original People work outside their “respective reserve communities”, which means, they PAID TAXES ON THEIR SALARIES AND FOR SOME INDIVIDUALS THEY HAVE TO STILL ADDITIONAL TAXES @ TAX TIME BECAUSE OF THEIR SALARY BRACKET..

      Yvonne Buc June 8, 2018 at 12:06 am #

      Costs for treaty rights do not come from taxpayers’ pockets. There is a huge fund that has been earning huge amounts of interest since the first treaties were signed. Costs for hundreds of Indian Affairs staff, costs for all the money that is paid out comes from that, not from taxes. There are billions of dollars that have been squandered for many years to keep Treaty First Nations people from benefiting from their inherent rights.

      Jessica June 8, 2018 at 6:04 am #

      Someone needs to learn about the Treaty Agreement that allows him to live in this country!

      Deanna June 8, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

      Perhaps you should consult google. You’ll be pleased to find that not 1 penny of your tax dollars goes to Indigenous people. Get your facts straight. In this day and age with all the access to information, you’re ignorance is embarrassing.

      A M June 8, 2018 at 9:30 pm #

      Comments like yours are what is wrong with Canada today. The Indian Trust Fund was started in 1750 by the Crown and held by the British Army’s Department of Indian Affairs located in England. 50 percent of the natural resources that came out of British North America went into these Indian Trusts. In 1850, the British people of the Dominion of Canada petitioned the Crown to bring the Indian Trusts and the office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to Canada. These Indian Trusts were alive and well until 1913. It has been suggested that its value is 2 trillion earning an annual interest rate of 35 billion. All moneys transferred for capital, general administration, services is drawn from interest of those trusts as is the entire INAC budget for their operations. NO TAXPAYER MONEY IS USED TO PAY FOR ANYTHING USED BY TREATY/STATUS INDIANS FOR OVER 150 YEARS ! Not to mention that many First Nations are generating revenue, from a wide variety of sources. Also, In 1876, the Indian Act gave the government control of Indian economic and resource development and land use. They became what we call “wards of Canada,” which didn’t allow them to engage in economic development. So your utterly uneducated and misinformed statement of “called tax payer money will be footing the bill for braces” needs to be reevaluated. How about you educate yourself regarding Indigenous peoples and maybe we may be able to have an educated discussion. Peace be with you.

      Tanya June 9, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

      It’s not tax payers money. This is thru Indian affairs so it actually comes from the treaties.

      Chan June 9, 2018 at 9:29 pm #

      . We have universal health care if it’s needec for your health not cosmetic reasons of course they should be covered . Please tell me the difference between paying for an knee replacements for an elderly person in chronic pain and paying for braces for a kid in chronicle pain?

    PK June 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

    I’ve paid over $20,000 in costs associated with my sons orthodontic care, having teeth growing out of the roof of your mouth and having very crooked teeth isn’t normal.
    Thankfully with the help of work benefitsI was able to pay for his treatment. It wa grossly unfair to have been forced to pay for his treatment, but mom’s will do what is necessary for their children.

    Dean Vicaire June 6, 2018 at 10:24 am #

    This family and Cindy Blackstock are true trailblazers. Thank you for your fight against a policy that is archaic in nature and made absolutely no sense.

    kevin starr June 6, 2018 at 4:36 am #

    I had three children that required braces and we had to pay for the braces ourselves. Thankfully we had good coverage from our work plans but the point being, it is a treaty right to dental care. Regardless of procedure. All three children had medical documentation stating that it was required. Governments response, IT IS CONSIDERED COSMETIC there u DO NOT QUALIFY.

      Alice June 6, 2018 at 4:22 pm #

      They use to paid at one time and brigthes so why they don’t now I have granddaughters 2 they need braces

    Sonia Beaulieu June 6, 2018 at 4:32 am #

    It’s about time !!!!
    All my girls have suffered and still suffer, because I could not afford to get them
    Braces that have been so badly needed! And they were not for appearance purposes either!
    Their jaws hurt, their jaw joints, their mouth! Because of impacted teeth, teeth over lapping,etc,etc,etc !
    Turned down say it’s cosmetics!!!!
    Really????!!!!???!? Like really????

    I still don’t know if I can get my youngest any braces, tried twice! And turned down both times! Yet, she’s always taken pain meds cause her teeth, jaw,etc hurt!

    I wish they did this long time ago! So these ppl didn’t have to go through this.
    And how many other children have been suffering because of this.
    Hats off to you !

      ginny June 7, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

      Yes, a lot of our First Nations people have had to deal with over crowding and back teeth coming in sideways, like my two daughters have. My two daughters have almost the identical set of teeth, but only on of my teenage daughters, was accepted and the other denied. They both have problems chewing and the daughter that was denied, has had headaches and grinding and locked jaw sometimes. We went through the three appeals for both of them. I want both of them to be able to get braces. If someone could pass this story on Minister Philpott, please do. Thank you. Concerned Indigenous mother from Edmonton.