Have a heart: Canada must act on gaps in services for First Nations children

(Ottawa, ON) – On February 10, 2015, a day dedicated to supporting the need for fair and proper services for First Nations children, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), together with UNICEF Canada, The Canadian Paediatric Society, McGill University and the University of Michigan released a report that highlights the inequity experienced by First Nations children who need government services.

The report “Without denial, delay or disruption: Ensuring First Nations children’s access to equitable services through Jordan’s Principle” reveals how bureaucratic confusion among provincial, territorial and federal governments results in First Nations children being denied necessary care and that Jordan’s Principle does not apply where it should.

“Children must come first,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who joined First Nations children and supporters on Parliament Hill on February 10 for “Have a Heart Day” in support of proper services for youth.

“We want an urgent and comprehensive response from all levels of government to address the problems exposed in this report so that no child suffers from delays or denial of important services. That’s exactly what Jordan’s Principle is about – ensuring that the care and support of a child who needs services is not held up by bureaucratic red tape. Too many First Nations children and families get caught in the middle of lengthy disputes among different levels of government. This is about basic human rights for indigenous children and all levels of government must act on this report’s recommendations.”

Recommendations are aimed at the equitable treatment of First Nations children as are articulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and other federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations legislation and agreements.

“Jordan’s Principle was Parliament’s promise to First Nations children so that they could access government services on the same terms as other children, but Ottawa’s documents show that government buck-passing continues and so does the suffering,” said child advocate and First Nations Caring Society of Canada President Cindy Blackstock. “This report shows that the government falls far short of upholding Jordan’s Principle. Now is the time to end unequal federal government education, health and child welfare services. The Government of Canada knows better and today we’re joining thousands of caring Canadians to make sure they do better for First Nations children.”

Jordan’s Principle, named in honour of Jordan River Anderson, aims to give First Nations children equal and fair access to services ordinarily available to other children and to shield them from jurisdictional disputes. Jordan River Anderson died tragically after spending two and a half years unnecessarily in hospital because government officials could not decide who should pay for his at-home care because he was First Nations.

Have a Heart day is about First Nations and caring Canadians standing together to honour Jordan’s Principle and to end inequality in other services for kids. For more information on how you can help visit: www.fncaringsociety.com/have-a-heart.

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