The story of a family facing mounting legal bills over the alleged forced genital examination of their then seven-year old Indigenous girl was brought up in the Senate of Canada Wednesday by Senator Gwen Boniface on behalf of Yvonne Boyer.
Boyer had expressed outrage at a story posted last week by APTN News where parents alleged their child was subjected to a genital exam by physician in northeastern Ontario because of a racial stereotype. The physician has denied the claims and declined an interview with APTN through her lawyers.
The child’s parents had submitted a Jordan’s Principle request in February 2020 to help cover their legal fees in a lengthy complaint process which includes a Health Professions Appeal and Review board hearing and now, an Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario complaint.
Jordan’s Principle turned down that request and an appeal filed in March was also denied.
Boyer asked the government to explain.
“Is it the Crown’s view that there are some health related costs for First Nations children that Jordan’s Principal cannot or should not cover? And why?” said Boniface on behalf of Boyer .
“How does a denial of the request align with the reasonable assessment of the child’s best interest, right to equality in access to public service and the promotion of her substantive equality as a First Nations child?”
Government representative Senator Marc Gold said he has made inquires about the case and will return to the chamber with answers.
Sarah Beamish is the family’s lawyer.
“We recognize that legal fees are not normally something they would consider a health care cost but in this case because it’s really the only way for the child to challenge it when healthcare is delivered in a discriminatory way that it should be considered a reasonable thing for Jordan’s Principle to cover,” Beamish said.
Jordan’s Principle requests are administered by the department of Indigenous Services Canada and the website states that “funding can help with a wide range of health, social and educational needs,” for children living on or off-reserve.
The program is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy who spent his whole life in hospital with a rare muscular disorder because the federal and provincial governments disputed who was responsible for the cost of his special housing needs.
Beamish said that the funding would have meant much more equitable access to the process for the family.
“It would take huge pressure off of them,” she said, “It would have meant that I could dedicate myself completely to the file.”
Boyer asked the government representative to explain how they expected families to gain access to accountability and remedy without funding.
“Is it the Crown’s view that it is acceptable for low-income First Nations children to have no meaningful or practical recourse when they experience racial discrimination while seeking healthcare including when that discrimination has ongoing negative impacts on their health and access to services?” she asked. “And if it is not the Crown’s view, how does the Crown propose that this family can seek accountability and remedy for what she experienced without legal funding?”
APTN requested an interview with Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous Services but did not hear back by the time this story was posted.
Now, the family is turning to gofundme.com in order to continue their fight.
“I just was so desperate as a mother searching for help. It is pretty bad that I have to share the dirty laundry of what happened to my child in order to seek help and level the playing field.” the child’s mother said, “I think this is a public issue. I think this is an issue about protecting our women and our children who access health care.”
“We really need community right now,” she said, “I think there can be some real benefits to making these changes and holding the process accountable to Indigenous people.”