A First Nations child advocacy group and the federal government are at odds over the definition of a First Nations child.
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society says the Indian Act meaning is not enough – but Canada says it is.
The two sides have been arguing their case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa over two days.
The dispute, and the hearings are over who is eligible for Jordan’s Principle services.
The caring society is asking Canada to expand its definition of a First Nations child.
“Number one, if there are children who don’t have status or reside off reserve, who are recognized by their communities, then they should be eligible under Jordan’s Principle,” says Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the caring society.
“And that the recognition could take a variety of different forms.”
Jordan’s Principle is supposed to provide quick access to health, social or educational services that are available to people off reserve and ensure first nations children living on reserve get the services they need.
As of now, Canada only pays for children under Jordan’s Principle if they have status, or reside on a reserve.
The government says they want to proceed as normal.
And that the proposed definition is only going to increase the number of self-determining applicants.
“We will ask you to satisfy this interim order and to dismiss this notion,” government lawyer Robert Frater told the Tribunal.
The human rights tribunal will either consider another order on Canada or dismiss the proposed definition from the caring society in the coming weeks.
Blackstock spent years before the tribunal arguing that Canada discriminated against First Nation children who live on reserve because their services were not funded equally as those children who live off-reserve.
The tribunal agreed and has been releasing non-compliance orders to the government to change its policies.