The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules that the Government of Canada is discriminating against 165,000 First Nations children and families by providing flawed and inequitable child welfare services and failing to fully implement Jordan's Principle. The Tribunal found that, similar to the Residential Schools era, the fate and future of many First Nations children is still being determined by the government.
History of Inequity
Canada has a long history of knowing about the inequities faced by Indigenous children and their families and choosing not to act. There are over 100 years of reports, articles, books, inquiries and commissions written by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples outlining the inequities and providing solutions. The History of Inequity timeline provides an opportunity to learn about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous children and families in a way that links lessons of history to contemporary injustices.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
In order to redress the legacy of the residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made 94 calls to action for individuals, organizations, communities and governments. The Calls to Action include calling upon all levels of governments to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in care and to fully implement Jordan's Principle. In addition to the calls to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a six-volume report on its findings. It found that the establishment and operation of residential schools was a central element in Canada's assimilation policy which sought to dismantle and eliminate Indigenous governments, cultures, languages, spiritualties and communities. The Commission determined that this amounted to cultural genocide.
Report of the Auditor General of Canada: First Nations Child and Family Services Program
The Auditor General found that INAC’s funding formula for on-reserve child welfare services was outdated and leads to funding inequities The formula was designed in 1988 and has not been significantly modified since, despite changes in provincial legislation and changes to ways services are provided. The formula is not based on the needs of children and communities. For example, the formula assumes that each First Nations agency has 6-percent of on-reserve children placed in care. This assumption leads to inequities among First Nations agencies because in practice, the percentage of children in care varies widely.
The Auditor General also found that INAC has insufficient assurance that the funding its provides to First Nations agencies are meeting provincial legislation and standards. For example, in some provinces, some on-reserve First Nations children were not receiving prevention or in-home services and were instead being placed into care, despite provincial legislative requirements.
Wen:De: The Journey Continues
This report costs out recommended changes to the three funding formula options for First Nations child and family services. It substantiated what was found in Wen:de: We are Coming to the Light of Day. The report pegged the shortfall in First Nations child and family services funding at $109 million per year. The report also discussed the cost of doing nothing is more expensive than doing everything to implementing the recommended reforms to funding. By spending just 1.25% of the 8 billion surplus budget that Canada report in 2004/2005, First Nations child would have the equitable opportunity to stay safely at home. By doing nothing and saving money now, Canada was setting itself up to pay 6-7 times more later.
Wen:De: We are Coming to the Light of Day
The first of the Wen:De reports aimed to inform the development of an equitable federal funding model for First Nations Child and Family Services. It found that the primary reason why First Nations children come to the attention of the child welfare system is neglect. Researchers unpacked the definition of neglect and found that substance misuse, poverty and poor housing were all a combination of risk factors. The report found that the over representation of First Nations children in the child welfare system is a result of the structural risk factors (poverty, poor housing and substance misuse) not being adequately addressed through the funding of least disruptive measures in First Nations communities. The federal government inadequately funded least disruptive measures intended to keep First Nations children who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing child maltreatment safely at home.
The report also found that jurisdictional disputes continue to have significant impacts on the lived experiences of First Nations children - particularly those with complex needs. The most frequent types of disputes were between federal government departments, between two provincial departments and between federal and provincial departments. The report found that the governments' primary concern has been who is assuming the costs as opposed to the safety and wellbeing of children affected in jurisdictional disputes. As a result, the report recommended that a child first approach to resolving jurisdictional disputes be called Jordan's Principle and be implemented without delay.
First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review: Final Report
The First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review provides a national review on the First Nations Child and Family Services policies of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (DIAND). The review found that the DIAND funding formula for First Nations Child and Family Services did not consider changes in provincial legislation and standards, which First Nations Child and Family Agencies must comply with. The average per capita per child in care expenditure of the DIAND funding formula is 22% lower than the average eof the selected provinces. It was found that while expenditures for agencies have been rising annually at an average rate of 6.2%, DIAND has been limited to 2% budgetary increases. Of great import is the recommendation concerning the inadequacy of the present funding formula in respect to prevention programs and initiatives. The funding problems faced by First Nations agencies does not allow them to fully support children, youth, and families in need of help.
Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
The Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) investigated the evolution of government policy pertaining to Indigenous nations in Canada. Regarding Indigenous child welfare, RCAP found that as the federal government phased out residential schools, it began expanding its role in funding social welfare services. Experts argued that the child welfare system was based on colonial policies with the goal of assimilating Indigenous children and was an extension of the residential school system. The federal government's willingness to fund child-in-care costs, along with the resistance to fund preventative services, were major factors in the permanent removal of Indigenous children. RCAP recommended that the federal government acknowledge a fiduciary responsibility to support Indigenous nations and communities in restoring Indigenous families to a "state of health and wholeness" and to focus funding on family supports as opposed to child-in-care costs.
No Quiet Place
The Manitoba government established a Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements in the wake of allegations from First Nations and Métis communities that their children were being fostered and placed in out-of-province homes for the purposes of adoption in large numbers. Judge Edwin C. Kimelman chaired the Committee and found in 1984 that the province of Manitoba had the resources to meet the needs of all the children placed out of province but failed to do so. It was found that virtually all the children placed for adoption outside of the province were First Nations or Métis. Kimelman reported that this amounted to cultural genocide.
Indian Residential Schools: Research study of the child care programs of nine residential schools in Saskatchewan
In a report prepared for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, George Caldwell found that 80% of residential school students were placed in the schools for reasons related to the "welfare need" of the family. There was no evidence of preventative or rehabilitative services operating to support the family. The report recommended that services be established to strengthen and maintain family life, and to support children in their own homes or within the care of their community.
The Story of a National Crime
Following his 1907 report and subsequent removal from public service in 1921, Dr. PH Bryce wrote The Story of a National Crime in 1922. This book provides clear evidence of the government's role in creating and maintaining conditions that led to the huge number of students’ deaths. Particularly, Dr. PH Bryce outlined the fact that the government had chosen not to take any action since his original report and recommendations in 1907.
Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs, 1920
The Indian Affairs Annual Report in 1920 outlined, among other things, amendments to the Indian Act that occurred that year. One such amendment was to establish compulsory education at residential schools for all First Nations children between the ages of 7 and 15. According to the report, the amendment gives the Department the control to remove from First Nations parents the "responsibility for the care and education of [their] child."
Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories
Dr. P.H. Bryce was hired as a Chief Medical Officer for the Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs where he was tasked with reporting on the sanitary conditions of residential schools. In his 1907 report, Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, Dr. P.H. Bryce found that nearly 25 percent of pupils had died while in residential schools. Further evidence also suggested that the number of student deaths were much higher, when considering that many children died shortly after leaving the schools. Dr. PH Bryce visited residential schools and found that the schools were overcrowded and poorly ventilated, conditions known at the time to facilitate the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases. He outlined clear recommendations to prevent unnecessary students' deaths, but the Department of Indian Affairs under the direction of Duncan Campbell Scott refused to implement the reforms. Dr. P.H. Bryce repeatedly called upon Duncan Campbell Scott to improve the conditions of the schools but was eventually forced out of government.