APTN National News
The Federal Court of Appeal has quashed Canada’s latest attempt to have a discrimination case against it thrown out Monday.
The complaint was filed by First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations more than six years ago. It alleges that Canada pays less on First Nations child welfare systems on reserve than provinces do for children off reserve.
The federal government has been fighting against the case since it was filed. The case is currently being heard before a panel at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
This latest appeal was over a decision by Federal Court Justice Anne MacTavish. In 2012, MacTavish overturned a decision by Shirish Chotalia, former chair of the tribunal, to have the complaint dismissed without hearing from a single witness.
Chotalia sided with the government in that federal funding of First Nations child welfare agencies could not be compared to how the provinces fund agencies off reserve.
But Chotalia also considered evidence that was not presented to her at the tribunal.
MacTavish ruled that Chotalia erred in her decision.
Last week, Ottawa reiterated its assertions that the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to hear the case and that the complaint couldn’t be heard by the tribunal because it provides funding, not services and therefore does not fall under the human rights act.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the FNCFCS says she’s overjoyed with the decision as it will allow the tribunal to hear all the evidence to determine if Canada’s provision of First Nations child and family services is discriminatory.
Blackstock is confident that the evidence will show that First Nations children and their families are not receiving equitable and culturally based services and look forward to the tribunal ordering the Canadian government to remedy the situation.
Canada has 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The tribunal began last month and will restart again in April as scheduled.
APTN is taping the hearings and will be streaming the witnesses on www.aptn.ca/news throughout the process.