AFN Press Release ...
OTTAWA, Oct. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) executive director Cindy Blackstock praised today's decision by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to allow a tribunal to hear a human rights complaint regarding First Nations children in state care.
"This is one of the most significant human rights cases to ever arise in Canada. The decision by the Canadian Human Rights Commission is very positive, it means we can finally begin to address the national crisis that has been created by unfair funding and inequitable services for First Nations children who are in state care," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "We are also calling on the minority Conservative government and all federal parties to proceed with the inquiry with no further delay. Delaying a hearing through unnecessary appeals will only delay justice for thousands of children in state care. All parties should work together to resolve the issue of discrimination in the child welfare system as quickly as possible."
"When accountable and responsible governments see discrimination against vulnerable children they should run toward equality - not inch toward it," said First Nations Child and Family Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock. "Considering that there are three times the number of First Nations children in child welfare care today than at the height of residential schools and independent experts have cited the federal government's under funding of child welfare as a contributing factor, I simply can not understand why the federal government would not move immediately to ensure equal treatment for First Nations children."
The AFN and the FNCFCS filed the complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission on February 23, 2007 after the 2005 Wend:e Report revealed that First Nation Child Welfare Agencies receive approximately 22% less funding than provincial agencies. Since the complaint was filed in 2007, the federal government has twice refused mediation, and has been unwilling to discuss national solutions outlined in both the Wend:e Report and the AFN's 2006 Leadership Action Plan on First Nations Child Welfare.
In May 2008, a report by the Auditor General of Canada found that the federal government is not providing First Nations Child and Family Services agencies with enough funding to meet the number or the needs of children in care. The report stated that the funding formula has not been reviewed since 1988, and it has not been adjusted for inflation since 1995, leaving First Nation Child and Family Services under-funded compared to provincial services. The Auditor General also critiqued the new child welfare model in Alberta noting that it assumes only 6 percent of First Nations children will be in care, when in some agencies the true number is much higher.
Similar to the Child Welfare issue, other core programs for First Nations have been capped at 2% a year, which does not keep pace with inflation or the growing First Nations population, creating a growing gap in the quality of life of First Nations compared to Canadians. The average Canadian gets services from the federal, provincial and municipal governments at an amount that is almost two-and-a-half times greater than that received by First Nations citizens. After more than 12 years of efforts by the AFN to achieve some measure of fairness in funding, the AFN has concluded that filing formal human rights complaints and Charter challenges are increasingly important options to assist First Nations to achieve equity.
There are an estimated 27,000 First Nations children in state care, of whom 8,300 are in the care of First Nations child and family service agencies.
The AFN and the FNCFS are also launching a fundraising campaign to offset costs for the case.
Donations can be made by contacting the AFN or the FNCFCS.
/For further information: Karyn Pugliese, AFN Health and Social Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext. 210, cell: (613) 772-0156, email@example.com/