11 First Nations, Alberta and Canada commit to full implementation of Jordan’s Principle

L to R: First Nations Health Consortium President Tyler White, Senator LaBoucane-Benson, Minister Larivee, Minister Jane Philpott and Bigstone Health Commission CEO Samantha Greyeyes-Noskiye.

(November 15, 2018) – The Alberta government is taking another landmark step toward reconciliation by signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Jordan’s Principle with the First Nations Health Consortium – made up of 11 Nations – and the Government of Canada.

This new trilateral MOU creates a First Nations-driven process where the consortium and the federal and provincial governments work together to coordinate services in Alberta, address gaps and share information, so that when a child needs support there are no unnecessary delays.

“Every child deserves the same access to supports, no matter where they live,” stated Alberta Minister of Children’s Services, Danielle Larivee. “Whether it’s a car seat, a splint, speech therapy or orthodontic surgery, addressing these needs in a fair and timely manner makes a huge, positive difference in the lives of children and their families. This is a key piece in our public action plan on child intervention and part of the promise we made to Alberta’s Indigenous Peoples to take action, address gaps that have been ignored for too long, and move towards true reconciliation.”

On November 15, 2018,  Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, along with the signatory Chiefs from Maskwacis, Siksika Nation, Bigstone Cree Nation and Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council (which are represented by the First Nations Health Consortium) and Danielle Larivee, Minister of Children’s Services for the Government of Alberta, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing for the full implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Alberta.

This MOU on Jordan’s Principle is the first of its kind between the federal government, provincial government and First Nations. This allows the Government of Canada, the First Nations Health Consortium and Government of Alberta to address gaps, and share information ensuring that children and families in Alberta are receiving the supports they need – including mental health supports, medical equipment, speech therapy, educational supports, and more.

The all-party Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention identified full implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Alberta as one of its 26 recommendations. Signing the MOU addresses one of 16 immediate actions set out in A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow, Alberta’s four-year public action plan to respond to the panel’s recommendations to improve the child intervention system and strengthen support for children and families.

The MOU signing also supports the province’s commitment to advocate to the Government of Canada, along with First Nations in Alberta, to ensure equitable levels of health, social and educational services are provided for First Nations children and families.

“This MOU is a significant step in Canada’s reconciliation journey,” remarked Sen. Patty LaBoucane-Benson, member of Alberta’s Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention. “It will help ensure that Indigenous children and youth in Alberta can access the health, social and educational supports they need, when they need them. It should provide a clearer process to ensure First Nations children can get the help they need.”

In 2016, the federal government announced funding to allow Jordan’s Principle to be implemented across Canada. This funding ensures timely access to necessary products, services and supports that address the needs of First Nations children, regardless of whether they live on- or off-reserve. Since 2016, $33 million in funding has been provided for implementation of Jordan’s Principle in Alberta.

“This first-of-its-kind trilateral agreement sits at the heart of what Jordan’s Principle is meant to achieve,” stated Minister Philpott. “This ensures that all orders of Government and First Nation partners are working together to support First Nations children and families in getting the supports and services they need, regardless of where they live, and without jurisdictional disputes. I am honoured to sign this Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Government of Canada. I want to thank the First Nations Health Consortium and the Province of Alberta for this step forward in fully implementing Jordan’s Principle in Alberta.”

This Memorandum of Understanding agreement is significant because our Alberta First Nations have come together to ensure a First Nations driven program is set in place to meet the needs of First Nations children throughout our province,” added Barry Philips, Acting Director, First Nations Health Consortium. “We continuously work together honouring and advocating for the needs of our First Nation people. We are passionate about our role in improving the lives of our children and families.”

Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson. He was a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who was born with multiple disabilities. The federal and provincial governments couldn’t agree who should pay for Jordan’s home-based care. As a result, Jordan remained in hospital, dying there at age five.

Nationally, from July 2016 to September 30, 2018, there have been more than 165,000 requests for products, services and supports approved for First Nations children under Jordan’s Principle, including 8129 requests approved in Alberta for the same timeframe. This includes mental health supports, medical equipment, speech therapy, educational supports, and more.

In Alberta, the federal and provincial governments and First Nations all deliver programs and services with a variety of eligibility criteria. This makes it critical that everyone works together to prevent gaps in services. 

Jordan’s Principle is meant to ensure that First Nations children, youth and families do not experience denials, delays or disruptions in supports due to conflicts between levels of government over payment for services.

The 11 partner Nations of the First Nations Health Consortium are: Bigstone Cree Nation, Loon River First Nation, Lubicon Lake Band, Peerless Trout First Nation, Whitefish Lake #459 First Nation, Woodland Cree First Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation and Siksika Nation.

If a First Nations child is not receiving necessary services and supports, caregivers can call the Jordan’s Principle hotline: 1-855-JP-CHILD (1-855-572-4453), open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also contact the First Nations Health Consortium at 1-844-558-8748 or visit the consortium’s website — abfnhc.com — for more information.

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