The federal government wants to overturn another Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling in an ongoing, 14-year-old complaint about the systemic underfunding of First Nations child welfare.
On Friday afternoon, the Justice Department filed what is now its third application for judicial review before the Federal Court.
The application asks a judge to quash an Aug. 26 ruling ordering Canada to fund First Nations child welfare agencies so they can build or buy property, buildings, vehicles and other infrastructure required to deliver services.
The justice department called the order “broad and vague and beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.”
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, partnered with the Assembly of First Nations in 2007 to lodge the original human rights complaint.
She pointed out on Twitter the application comes only days before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 — a new statutory holiday created by the federal government to honour victims of residential schools.
She also noted the appeal comes on the heels of a federal election campaign during which opposing parties criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for fighting First Nations kids in court.
“It is beyond disappointing that just days after hearing reconciliation election pledges, that the first action the federal government takes is filing yet another appeal to overturn an order that ensures First Nations’ children and families have proper buildings to receive services to keep families together and ensure children get the help they need,” Blackstock said in an email.
“Their litigation against the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s] top Call to Action on child welfare seems endless.”
Fresh off of the reconciliation election pledges & just days before Orange Shirt day, the fed. gov't files an appeal to overturn a CHRT order ensuring First Nations have proper buildings for prevention services to keep families together & help 4 kids under Jordan's Principle. pic.twitter.com/hQfq7pbCTU
— Cindy Blackstock (@cblackst) September 24, 2021
The Canadian government noted the tribunal hasn’t issued its final reasons yet but said it filed the appeal because a 30-day limitation period will expire in two days on Sept. 26.
Trudeau stated incorrectly during the federal leaders’ debate the Liberals aren’t fighting First Nation kids in court.
One of the Justice Department’s top lawyers spent a week in court in mid-June arguing the two other judicial reviews.
The first ruling ordered Canada to pay $40,000 — the maximum amount under federal human rights law — to kids unnecessarily taken from their homes or denied access to essential services that ought to have been available under Jordan’s Principle.
Trudeau said Canada will compensate these kids, but prefers to do it through a negotiated class-action settlement rather than through the tribunal.
The second ruling ordered Canada to expand Jordan’s Principle to non-status kids if they meet certain criteria.
Jordan’s Principle is a program Ottawa is legally required to implement to ensure all First Nations kids have access to essential health and social services without delay.
It states that the level of government first contacted must pay for the essential services in question and seek reimbursement later.
All decisions made by quasi-judicial administrative tribunals like the human rights tribunal are subject to appeal in the form of review by a judge.
Justice Paul Favel presided over the two previous reviews. He reserved his decision on both.
They have not yet been released.