(Image: Human Rights Tribunal chair Shirish Chotalia. APTN/ file photo)
APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Federal Court issued a stinging rebuke to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Wednesday in a ruling overturning a decision to dismiss a discrimination complaint against the federal Aboriginal Affairs department over its funding to First Nations child and welfare services.
Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish ordered the tribunal to again hear the complaint, but with a different panel.
Mactavish found that Conservative-appointed tribunal chair Shirish Chotalia committed a litany of errors when she decided to dismiss the complaint which was launched by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations.
Mactavish found that the tribunal erred when it failed to provide its reasons for deciding the complaint could not proceed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The judge also found that the tribunal erred when it found there was nothing to compare Aboriginal Affairs department’s handling of child and welfare services, despite the federal government’s own internal use of provincial standards as a benchmark.
“The process that (the tribunal) followed in this case was not fair,” wrote Mactavish.
The society and the AFN have argued that Aboriginal Affairs discriminates against First Nations children by failing to fund First Nations child welfare services at the same level as the provinces.
Chotalia ruled on March 14, 2011, that First Nations on-reserve child welfare services could not be compared to provincial child welfare services. Her ruling handed a victory to the federal government which had been vigorously fighting the complaint.
Amnesty International and the Chiefs of Ontario are also backing the complaint.
Chotalia has been beset by troubles of her own. An internal investigation upheld claims of harassment leveled by tribunal employees against Chotalia.
Aboriginal Affairs was also forced to launch its only internal probe after it emerged department officials were spying on Cindy Blackstock, the head of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.