Treat Child Welfare Recipients Equally: Lobbyists

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 at 13:26



A First Nations lobby group is calling on the federal government to get serious about equalizing child welfare payments on-reserve.


In Feb. 2007, the First Nations and Child Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) joined forces with the Assembly of First Nations to launch a complaint against the government


The two groups alleged that the feds are discriminating against on-reserve children through an inadequate funding formula.


According to FNCFCS executive director Cindy Blackstock, the average child on-reserve receives 22 per cent less child welfare funding than the same child living in a city.


She says the matter is currently before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which could rule on the issue later this year.


“What’s so interesting about the tribunal is that it has subpeona power, and it takes testimony under oath. But if it finds that Canada is discriminating against kids, it also has the authority to order a remedy that’s enforceable in Federal Court. And that’s very much what we’re hoping will happen here,” Blackstock says.


The Aboriginal Affairs critic for the federal Green Party says provincial governments also need to be pressured for more money.


Lorraine Ekmans says the Constitution demands that provinces look out for residents living within their borders.


“I think it’s a difficult thing for the provinces to say that they don’t have an obligation under the Constitution to deal with Aboriginal issues, and I think that’s what’s at the heart of this problem. It’s a question of responsibility, and if provinces are signatories or partners in constitutions, certainly they do have responsibilities to fulfill obligations to Aboriginal people in Canada,” Ekmans says.


Ekmans says there are more First Nations children in care now than during the height of the residential schools.


She blames chronic underfunding as a key reason for the surge.