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

  • Passenger train partly derails in Australia, killing 2

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Several cars on a passenger train derailed in southeastern Australia, killing two operators and injuring 12 other people, police said. The train was heading from Sydney to Melbourne late Thursday when part of it came off the tracks in Victoria state near Wallan. Source
  • Wet'suwet'en chiefs to spend Friday with Mohawk supporters in Ontario

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- A group of hereditary leaders from the Wet'suwet'en Nation in British Columbia is to spend the day with Mohawk supporters in Ontario. The B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to a pipeline project on their traditional territory by blocking a critical rail line between Toronto and Montreal. Source
  • First round of Wuhan evacuees to be released from quarantine today

    Canada News CTV News
    Full coverage CTVNews.ca/Coronavirus First round of Wuhan evacuees to be released from quarantine today As Canadians from cruise ship fly home, those who tested positive can only wait Source
  • Thai court orders popular opposition party dissolved

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK -- Thailand's constitutional Court on Friday ordered the popular opposition Future Forward Party dissolved, declaring that it violated election law by accepting a loan from its leader. The court also imposed a 10-year ban on the party's executive members holding political office. Source
  • Latino voters can make or break Democratic campaigns. They're about to get their say in 2020

    World News CBC News
    Latino voters turned the course of the Democratic presidential primaries in 2016. They're about to get their say in 2020. Starting this weekend in Nevada, followed just over a week later by the delegate-bountiful states of California and Texas, Hispanic voters will play a make-or-break role. Source
  • Be warned, Conservatives: a failed leadership bid is not a career-builder

    Canada News CBC News
    There are two types of candidates vying for the Conservative leadership — those who have a plausible chance of winning and those who don't. Only the second category is getting larger. Maybe the people in this second group think they can pull off an unlikely upset. Source
  • Government asking for an extra $2.1 billion for Indigenous programs

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is asking Parliament to spend an additional $2.1 billion on Indigenous programs and initiatives, above and beyond what MPs already have approved. While $2 billion of the proposed spending for Indigenous services would be new money, supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament show that more than $53 million in net transfers from various departments would go to a wide range of Indigenous programs and projects. Source
  • Grief, anger and calls for action after shooting in Germany

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- Thousands have gathered in cities across Germany to hold vigils for the victims of a racially motivated shooting, amid growing calls for authorities to crack down on far-right extremism. A 43-year-old German man shot dead nine people of immigrant background in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau Wednesday before killing his mother and himself. Source
  • Iran votes in parliament elections that favour conservatives

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, IRAN -- Iranians were voting for a new parliament Friday, with turnout seen as a key measure of support for Iran's leadership as sanctions weigh on the economy and isolate the country diplomatically. The disqualification of more than 7,000 potential candidates, most of them reformists and moderates, raised the possibility of lower-than-usual turnout. Source
  • Charter flight carrying quarantined cruise passengers lands at CFB Trenton

    Canada News CBC News
    The charter plane carrying more than 200 Canadian passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has landed at CFB Trenton in Ontario. The plane, which touched down just after 2 a.m. ET, was carrying passengers from the cruise liner that was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan since early February due to an outbreak of COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. Source