Trudeau Liberals take Human Rights Tribunal to court over First Nation children ruling

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News

The Justin Trudeau Liberal government is taking the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to Federal Court over a ruling last month that linked the suicide deaths in a northern Ontario First Nation with Ottawa’s inaction on implementing total equity in health care delivery for Indigenous children.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Health Minister Jane Philpott issued a joint statement Friday saying the tribunal’s May 26 ruling contained two issues that they, as medical doctors, could not allow to stand and needed clarification from the Federal Court.

“Our views on this are informed by our past experiences,” said Philpott, in an interview Friday morning.

The ministers took issue with the tribunal’s order that all Jordan’s Principle cases be processed within 48 hours and that the federal departments do away with case conferencing, which it saw as an unnecessary and additional administrative layer.

Under Jordan’s Principle, the health care needs of First Nations children are placed ahead of jurisdictional disputes between the federal and provincial governments. It also applies to other public services, including education, early childhood learning and child welfare.

The Human Rights Tribunal ruled last year that Ottawa discriminated against First Nation children by underfunding child welfare services on reserve and by failing to provide health care services on par with the rest of the country.

The Trudeau Liberals have spent at least $707,000 fighting the tribunal’s order, according to numbers obtained by NDP MP Charlie Angus through an Order Paper question.

The previous administration of Stephen Harper went to Federal Court in a failed bid to have the discrimination case, which was filed in 2007, dismissed.

Since the 2016 ruling, the tribunal has issued three compliance orders against the Trudeau Liberals over the slow pace of its required changes.

Philpott said that while the tribunal’s orders were generally sound, the potential exceptions created too much of a health care risk and forced her government to take the issue to Federal Court.

“This is our mechanism to get back to the tribunal to make sure we understand what they are saying,” said Philpott. “We don’t want anything that we agree to, to not be in the best interest of kids.”

Philpott said there are some complex cases where 48 hours is just not enough time to get the health care treatment right.

“Both of us have been in circumstances where we know that when kids need care there are advantages where that care comes not from an individual, but from team based care.”

Cindy Blackstock, head of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society, said Philpott and Bennett resorted to a “technical argument” aimed at undermining the tribunal’s orders and ruling.

“This is a distraction. The federal government has entered zero evidence from the ministers or any other physician suggesting these timelines are problematic,” said Blackstock, who filed the 2007 human rights complaint with the support of the Assembly of First Nations. “They have violated four legal orders to stop the discrimination against vulnerable children and are now launching another technical argument to shirk their responsibilities.”

Blackstock said the only physician to file an affidavit was from Dr. Michael Kirlew, who works out of Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Kirlew, who provides health care to northern First Nations, linked Ottawa’s failure to fully comply with the tribunal’s order with two suicide deaths of 12-year-old girls in Wapekeka First Nation this past January. Another 12-year-old girl died by suicide last week in the community.

“Canada did not challenge Dr. Kirlew’s evidence,” said Blackstock.

NDP MP Romeo Saganash said he was “disgusted” by the move to take the issue to Federal Court.

“It was unacceptable for Justin Trudeau to ignore the rulings of the Human Rights Tribunal regarding discrimination of First Nations children but I am disgusted to learn that now, Trudeau is taking Tribunal itself to court,” said Saganash. “How desperate can he be to disregard basic human rights of Indigenous People?”

Health Canada received an urgent request for help from Wapekeka last summer after community members uncovered a suicide pact. Health Canada officials initially balked at the request.

The tribunal, in its May 26 ruling, also made the connection.

“While Canada provided assistance once the Wapekeka suicides occurred, the flaws in the Jordan’s Principle process left any chance of preventing the Wapekeka tragedy unaddressed and the tragic events only triggered a reactive response to then provide services,” said the tribunal’s ruling at the time.

Philpott said the tribunal made a “factual error in the decision” because it said there was a “refusal to provide funding” to the community.

“That funding was never refused,” said Philpott.

Philpott said linking the two issues was also an oversimplification.

“The roots and causes of these terrible suicides in First Nations will not be solved simply by money and additional health workers. They have to do with deep social injustices, intergenerational trauma, so much inequity,” said Philpott. “Let us not oversimplify this.”

Philpott said federal officials have identified 8,800 Jordan’s Principle cases to date.

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41 thoughts on “Trudeau Liberals take Human Rights Tribunal to court over First Nation children ruling

  1. The land was clean and rich with culture. Our ancestors made a friendship with the first settlers,Dutch people. Not the French or English we just fought in there dispute,which I’m sure helped the modern Canada become. The devastation is evident, I’m sure everyone knows,but care? That has never been the goal to preserve us as a people. Countless horror story’s commited by clergymen in the name of integrating so called savages. Now to the point where one foot in the canoe and one on the ship. Our own so called government on reservations bowing down to powers that be selling out and leading the way for apples or whatever you want to call as a disgrace to our people. Bottom line we will take back for the children to come what is and always will be my religion , my mother , all of our mother. The settlers use our ways and medicine to survive. Where things went askew were the Jesuit order to meme our people to total destruction. We are still here by will of the great spirit and will continue on with or without money or the fact that lies are still lies a Jesuits religion. Skennen, good mind. We are all apart of creation. Honor one another as such. A family .

  2. All churches and relegions have no place in native community period they should let us learn our old ways and leave to the city’s no offense but they did slot of damage and thought us to to hate native culture and way of life we are not relegions or anything like that we are apart of the creator and the closest to him

  3. The Tribunal should be thinking of how First Nations are going to achieve the 5 necessities of life. 1) food 2) shelter 3) warmth 4) self-esteem 5)the esteem of others. Only thing elders, chiefs, and community leaders can provide the last 2 necessities. If they are lacking, humans die from suicide. The Tribunal is not providing any esteem, they would rather blame anyone but themselves. The Tribunal is hurting the cause they say they are supporting. Have they considered the role that religion usually plays in these matters? Suicide pacts occur in a spiritual vacuum in all societies.

    1. Religion or spirituality? There are lots of churches on First Nation lands. Not sure why you think simple prayer is the answer. Even if it was the answer, the damage Christianity has done has made people scared of it. You know who ran the residential schools don’t you? You know who abused those children don’t you? You asked earlier what spituality they have of their own. Look at the 7 sacred teachings. You don’t need media to educate you. You need to pick up a book or 2 or just search the web.

  4. I deeply sympathize with Fiirst Nations. Our health care system sucks. Therefore, our political system also. Well….think about it ….the health care system is “fruits from the tree”. (You don’t get mangoes from a cactus). However, all that said…I think First Nations are being really bad and selfish….last year 500 doctors in Ontario received over one million dollars EACH for their services… come on!!!! You go complaining like that and all those doctors may loose their lawn furniture and swimming pools…. I feel frustrated with our system and what is happening here in Canada. Complaining does not seem to work. Action does not seem to work. Human death does not seem to work. Our judicial system does not seem to work….. so dammed slow everything. In the 1500’s some explorers made a mess by seeing First Nations people as ‘less than…’ and we are still trying to clean up that mess by making it bigger. We are all children of The Creator

  5. Mr. Philpot, “deep social injustices, intergenerational trauma, so much inequity” will not be changed without resources (money) being assigned (spent) to the task. If it is less expensive in the long to solve those problems than to bandage up the wounds created by them, please solve the problems. The ruling creates an incentive. But do not neglect the wounds, or the problems will become more intractable. Your constituents have the resources because their ancestors stole them. Returning some of them is less than the least you can do.

  6. like so many “legal” cases this article doesn’t give all of the pertinent facts…but having said that, the obscene amount of money Trudeau’s Liberals are spending to fight this ruling could go a long way to give needed help to all First Nations people. It is true that the issues are systemic and deep rooted which makes it all the more necessary to have all facts and an unbiased article on these facts. But “resources” which often means money, do have to be allocated to address these deep ingrained systemic issues. Trudeau’s Liberals are avoiding their responsibility to our First Nations people..

  7. OMG and he expects Canadians to celebrate 150 years of oppression? It is nothing more than a distraction, an attempt to brainwash Canadians into thinking everything is great and wonderful in Canada. Shame on him. What goes around comes around!

  8. I am 64 and was abused. Buy the British system
    Violent mother
    I am an immigrant 50 Canadian citizen
    Do I have any rights?

  9. Absolutely appalling that they would flight this. Come on Justin.

  10. Hey, Justin, how about just providing them with the health care you’re supposed to provide them with, instead of fighting it? And while you’re at it, where’s the clean water supplies you promised to the reserves while you were campaigning? They are still under boil-water orders. At the very least, stop doubling down and avoiding the compliance orders. PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!!!!! What’s the matter with you???

    He should have his own health care and clean water withheld until he complies.

  11. I have had problems. with the health care system. in Alberta and Ontario. .I’ve been working since I was 12. .made myself a person who is the only person that knows me best. .for the reason that the company or people’s responsible for me. .pushed me forward. .includes my parents. my employer. .wsib. .myself. .to find out out what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. .but have to draw the line somewhere. ..I’ve helped a lot of people in my life time. .only to be treated like. .a person that doesn’t care. .the problem is that we all need thing to care for. .it’s me that has to care for me when it matters. .I have now been unable to work because I didn’t receive the proper care from the people that are supposed to make a difference. .why is it always me that is making the difference to show. .who is not

  12. Indians have full access to every service the rest of us have just not available in remote areas If they want services move to Winnipeg where everything is on hand. Don’t expect working Canadians tax dollars to be spent up there.

  13. You can’t have equal excess to school,healthcare ,libraries and so on when you live in remote communities. Move down to Winnipeg if you want these type of services. Never had them up north nor should we.

  14. Stick to your guns mr commissioner. Everyone knows that the underfunding of mental health and the wellbeing of the people on reserves is a national disgrace that is ongoing and deliberate

  15. I guess a 12 yr old life means very little to those in power to act quicker,solving issues surrounding the question why! Why,is a 12 yr old child in such a state of mind to kill herself.Just Wondering if the child belonged to one of those in power to act,if action would be immediately.

  16. Utterly disgusting!!! What happened to reconciliation? Do they even know what the word means? All BS as usual. Spending more money to fight Children. CHILDREN!!! So blatantly racist and unjust.

    1. It is racist to blame a person or government for racism unless you have proof, which you don’t. Jesus said to remove the lumber from your own eye before mentioning the toothpick in your neighbor’s. What religion are these First Nations?

      1. We are not a religion actually we are a way of living this earth is our mother and creator and u should learn to treat it as such cause when the cleansing comes it will not touch the spiritual beings who are close to creator if u believe nothing u get nothing our creator teaches us that all races are our brothers and sisters and that what the 4 directions stand for and the 4 colours

    2. I don’t think anyone understands reconciliation because there is nothing to learn there, unless you enjoy politics. Parents are responsible for raising the next generation, not governments. First Nations parents too. What religion and morals are these children encouraged to embrace? Why won’t th media tell us about their religious and moral teachings? Maybe Christian ears would be offended?? We simply do not know the relevant facts, the media keeps the information secret. Good luck and try not to worry about media items that anger and confuse us. Try prayer, perhaps.

      1. You want to talk about religion? What about what the residential schools? Yeah. Religion did great things to our aboriginal people

    1. I believe that’s what the article insinuated. That reserves children services and education are sub par…maybe read it again? Just trying to help

  17. Such a shame fighting over blame & ownership of the continual lack of what is needed for the peoples of this country.
    Instead of spending millions of dollars to bring in supposed refugees why are our governing bodies not fixing our issues before adding more problems for this country?
    This all sickens me. Canadian children are dying of abuse and neglect on Canadian soil. or when old enough to act upon it, they are sadly taking their own lives. It is time to stop paying for inquiries, etc because all that does is make a few rich people richer and the poor people expecting action simply frustrated and disgusted. No matter who is voted in, the same lack of direct action to fix this country’s wounds. How do these people sleep at night? Very well apparently 🙁
    What did this tribunal cost? What do Philpott and Bennett earn and what does JT rake in? The 707,000 is a drop in the bucket…shame on these tools that Canadian taxpayers pay to “improve” the quality of our lives. Shame on them all!

  18. It would be absolutely fantastic if the indigenous people of this country would stop blaming everyone for their issues. Be self sufficient. Solve your issues. Money doesn’t fix everything. If there is a problem on a reserve, gather your people and solve the issue. You have a strong holistic culture; I am confident you can solve your own issues.

    1. It would be FANTASTIC David.. If you had Studied Canadian History… I assume you are aware First Nations can not even access their own monies held in Trust by the Canadian Government in order to Replace their Homes which in so many cases are without Electricity, Working Plumbing, Many Reserves have been under “Boil Water Advisories'” for 15-20 Years..Have you ever even been on a Remote Reserve ??? As for helping themselves. I have a Degree in Social Work with Native History and Cultures as my Major. A Decent Education..however I look like a Grade School Child when compared to so many of my Status fronds who studied Political Sciences, Law, Further Degrees in Social Work than myself.. Try knowing your Facts before Pre Judging.. Oh I am not Status Native.. I am just Metis but I do know my facts. Blessings Kat

    2. Y not tell your government to give us all our land back oh and give us our 32 trillion dollars that Canada is obligated to give us buts dogs us all the time give us our land claims and all our money oh wait your Canadian government so curropt that they spend money that not theres at all oh each reserve would get 880 million each and no more land for u but what u have beside that give us all our lands except were the city’s are and then u have ask us for any more land for anything and with that money the Canadian government can kiss ass

  19. Very interesting story, I hope it gets picked up by mainstream media. I don’t like the fact that it’s going to Federal Court, it is a court that is too close to the government. They could try to dilute the clear conclusions of the tribunal. Worrying situation.

    1. The Tribunal is probably on salaries. I don’t trust them. I think they are contributing to the problem, and fostering racism.

  20. It’s high time that KANATA’S people take a stand and stop the KHANADIZATION of their LANDS by an occupying MUTT RACE and those who continue to further MUTTIFY IT!
    P.S. I’m a WHITE MUTT!!!

  21. More shameless behavior from Mr. No
    Change Trudeau.
    As the list of broken promises grows, so
    Doe’s the Prime Ministers nose !!!
    Seriously !!

  22. More shameless behavior from Mr. No
    Change Trudeau. As the list of broken
    Promises grows, so doe’s the prime minister’s nose !!!! Seriously !!’

  23. More shameless behavior from Mr. No Change Trudeau.
    As the list of broken promises grows,
    So doe’s the Prime Minister’s nose !
    Seriously !!!

  24. Whatever files the Trudope Liberal regime touch, they end up in disaster. This is due to the incompetence of an undereducated regime and affirmative action gone wrong. Few in Trudumb’s cabinet have any relative education or experience to execute their portfolios. A kindergarten class would be moe skilled and competent. Expect more disasters.

  25. Please leave the link to the joint statement please so that readers can be informed.

    1. Tribunals and commissions cost yet despite the billions spent on a national reconciliation the social outcome is only beginning to reveal the outcome of social and institutional neglect the First People have been experiencing since the arrival of the Colonists. The Liberal government’s response to a Human Rights group that stands up for children who are at risk is both disturbing and questionable. Too many Indigenous women, men and youth have been murdered or are missing to worry what any of these governments say or do. How many mistakes and how many apologies before The First People begin to take up what was not taken away, the right to live according to the Indigenous way of life “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows green and the rivers flow” as the Ancestors of this land agreed.
      These agreements were based in ‘Natural Law’ according to this land and not upon ‘The Rule of Law’ of which traditional customary treaty signers had no knowledge. Imposing this ‘rule of law’ where it has no legal jurisdiction may be a problem as well as in any jurisdiction where trilateral agreements are being used to undermermine Indigenous rights in Canada.

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