Advocates await First Nations welfare ruling

OTTAWA - Nine emotional years after she first challenged the federal government, First Nations child welfare advocate Cindy Blackstock is awaiting a ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that will determine if Canada has discriminated against children on reserves.

See Full Article

Blackstock is the executive director of The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, which filed the complaint with the Assembly of First Nations in 2007.

It argued the federal government failed to provide First Nations children the same level of welfare services that exist elsewhere, contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act. It said this was discrimination on racial grounds.

A lot has changed during the course of this fight, Blackstock said.

"When I look back nine years and I think about what's changed in the world, to give it some context ... Obama became the first ... African-American U.S. president and Prime Minister Harper came and went," she said. "But most importantly, a whole generation grew up ... nine years is such a long time in a child's life."

It is extraordinary this case had to be filed in the first place, Blackstock said.

"Everyday I wake up and I ask myself, 'why did we have to bring the government of Canada to court to get them to treat First Nations children fairly?"'

Aboriginal child welfare was one of the central issues flagged in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which spent six years examining Canada's residential school legacy.

The report said governments, including at the federal level, need to reduce the number of aboriginal children taken into care by providing adequate resources for communities and child-welfare organizations.

It also called for child-welfare legislation that sets national standards.

The Liberal government has committed to implementing all of the suggestions from the TRC, including an overhaul of child welfare, but Blackstock said she is keen to see action and noted the legally binding tribunal decision could take this out of the government's discretion.

During the lengthy dispute, Blackstock suffered personal hardship.

In 2013, then-privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart found that two government departments had overstepped in monitoring Blackstock and her personal Facebook account.

Stoddart said the Aboriginal Affairs Department and the Justice Department violated the spirit, if not the intent, of the Privacy Act by compiling information from Blackstock's personal social media page.

Both departments agreed to stop the monitoring, destroy personal information not directly linked to federal policy and set up a new system to ensure such surveillance did not happen again.

Last spring, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that a government official "retaliated" against Blackstock and it awarded her $20,000 for pain and suffering. She donated the money to children's charities.

That dispute centred on a December 2009 meeting at the ministerial headquarters in Gatineau, Que. where Blackstock said she was the only person barred from a gathering with the chiefs of Ontario.

First Nations children and their families helped her deal with these challenges, she said.

"Every time I would feel exhausted, and there were many, every time I would feel afraid, and there were some, given the surveillance and other things, every time I would just feel sad and want to give up, I'd just think about them," Blackstock said.

"They have been my constant source of inspiration, those children and their families across this country. I just knew that I could never give up."

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is expected to publish its ruling online on Tuesday morning.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • North Korea holds drill to mark military anniversary: Seoul

    World News CTV News
    PYONGYANG, Korea, Democratic People's Republic Of -- South Korea's military said Tuesday that North Korea held major live-fire drills in an area around its eastern coastal town of Wonsan as it marked the anniversary of the founding of its military. Source
  • 'We are in a race against time': Yemen in spotlight as UN hosts pledging conference

    World News CBC News
    The United Nations secretary-general and high-ranking government officials from dozens of countries were meeting Tuesday in Geneva to drum up funds for war-torn Yemen, considered one of the world's greatest humanitarian crises. Antonio Guterres and top diplomats from Switzerland and Sweden are co-hosting a pledging conference in the Swiss city that's aimed at helping assemble $2.1 billion US in a UN relief appeal that was launched this year. Source
  • B.C. Greens promise to balance budget, make tax system more progressive

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Green party is hoping its promise to balance the province's books will mean more support in the ballot box come election day. Green Leader Andrew Weaver released his party's full platform at a campaign event in downtown Vancouver today. Source
  • Christy Clark explains difference between Liberal, NDP donations

    Canada News CTV News
    DELTA, B.C. -- British Columbia Liberal Leader Christy Clark says the difference between her party accepting donations from American lumber companies and NDP Leader John Horgan welcoming support from a forestry union with ties to U.S. Source
  • N.S. Liberals coy about election plans but want accessibility law passed

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The opening of the spring session of the Nova Scotia legislature Tuesday means an unofficial election campaign, underway for weeks, will be temporarily shelved as the Liberal government gears up to present a budget later this week. Source
  • Manitoba MMIW families say hearings must go ahead

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- A coalition that represents Manitoba family members says national hearings into missing and murdered indigenous women must begin soon despite the uncertainty surrounding the process. An open letter signed by officials with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition says the hearings, slated to begin at the end of May, have been long in coming and families are anxious. Source
  • Arkansas executes 2 inmates on the same gurney, hours apart

    World News Toronto Sun
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Two condemned Arkansas killers who admit they’re guilty but fear their poor health could lead to extreme pain during lethal injections set for Monday might become the first inmates put to death in a double execution in the U.S. Source
  • Trump signals Mexico wall funding may wait several months for more pressing concerns

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump indicated an openness on Monday to delaying his push to secure funds for his promised border wall with Mexico, potentially eliminating a sticking point as lawmakers worked to avoid a looming shutdown of the federal government. Source
  • Converting coal would help China's smog at climate's expense

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- China's conversion of coal into natural gas could prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. But there's a catch: As the country shifts its use of vast coal reserves to send less smog-inducing chemicals into the air, the move threatens to undermine efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said Tuesday. Source
  • Hollywood's writers vote overwhelmingly to authorize strike next week

    World News CBC News
    More than 96% of the voting members of the Writers Guild of America have authorized a strike against production companies. The WGA released the results Monday, a day ahead of the resumption of contract negotiations on a master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Source