Human rights ruling on First Nation child welfare case against Ottawa still ‘months’ away

Unforeseen health issues delaying panel’s ruling, letter says

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
It may be “months” before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rules on whether Ottawa discriminates against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services in First Nation communities.

The Tribunal sent a letter on Sept. 1 to all parties on the case saying unexpected health issues had delayed the human rights body’s decision on a discrimination complaint launched against the federal Aboriginal Affairs department by Cindy Blackstock, who heads the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations.

“The decision in this matter is of great significance not only to the parties, but for many people across the country. The parties and the public have been patiently awaiting a decision in this matter,” said the letter sent on behalf of the tribunal panel by Dragisa Adzic, the registry officer. “Due to unforeseen circumstances involving health issues, the panel encountered unexpected delays. The panel is hopeful to have a decision released in a few months.”

The letter does not provide details of the health issues.

“I had hoped for an earlier decision for the kids,” said Blackstock, in a statement sent to APTN National News. “Health issues are an understandable reason for the delay.”

Blackstock and the AFN launched the human rights complaint in 2007 alleging the federal Aboriginal Affairs department discriminates against First Nation children on the basis of race and national ethnic origin by continuing to underfund child welfare agencies on reserves.

The tribunal has already ruled in Blackstock’s favour on an adjoining retaliation complaint that was added to the discrimination complaint

The tribunal ruled that Aboriginal Affairs pay $10,000 to Blackstock for pain and suffering and $10,000 for the “wilful and reckless conduct” of David McArthur, the senior special assistant to Chuck Strahl, who was the minister of Aboriginal Affairs at the time. McArthur was chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford before the writ was dropped triggering the current federal election.

McArthur blocked Blackstock from entering a meeting on Dec. 9, 2009, at the Aboriginal Affairs department building in Gatineau, Que., because she had filed a human rights complaint against the department, the tribunal found.

In a separate case, the federal privacy watchdog determined that Aboriginal Affairs and Justice Canada officials were spying on Blackstock by gathering her personal information. The Office of the Privacy Commission found that both departments began gathering her personal information in February 2010. The commission found that the departments accessed and copied information from Blackstock’s personal Facebook page. The commission ordered the departments to destroy the personal information they collected “to the extent permitted by law.”

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