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

  • Lawmaker who compared Obamas to monkeys accused of sexual assault

    World News CTV News
    FRANKFORT, Ky. - A Kentucky lawmaker who attracted national attention last year when he compared President Barack Obama and his wife to monkeys has been accused of sexual assault. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting quotes Maranda Richmond as saying she has asked Louisville police to reopen an investigation of Dan Johnson. Source
  • That Uber breach? Privacy commissioner is now investigating

    Canada News CBC News
    The country's Privacy Commissioner is opening a formal investigation into a 2016 Uber breach that compromised the personal information of tens of millions of the ride-hailing service's users. Similar investigations have been launched by authorities in the U.S. Source
  • Canada top-ranked outside Europe on new list of countries making world a better place

    World News CTV News
    The Netherlands has emerged the world leader in a new index that aims to distinguish itself by measuring a country not by its own prosperity, but by its contribution to the "common good of humanity. Source
  • B.C. government to go ahead with Site C hydroelectric dam project

    Canada News CBC News
    Calling it a "difficult decision," the B.C. government has decided to go ahead with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam, paving the way for work to restart. The NDP government had been debating whether to continue the construction of the dam — which will flood 5,500 hectares of the Peace River valley and displace many Indigenous communities and farmers — or cancel the work midway through the job. Source
  • Transgender people can enlist in the U.S. military on Jan. 1

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump's demand to ban transgender individuals from the military. Source
  • Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist in military

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump's demand to ban transgender individuals from the military. Source
  • Victory over Islamic State declared, worry is now guerrilla warfare

    World News CBC News
    Welcome to The National Today, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here under "Subscribe to The National's newsletter," and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday. Source
  • Relatives of murdered seniors set to ask to take part in public inquiry

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Relatives of murdered seniors, along with advocacy and health-care groups, are among four dozen applicants seeking to participate in a public inquiry sparked by a nurse who killed eight elderly long-term-care residents in Ontario. Source
  • B.C. man charged with animal cruelty after dog nearly dies of fleas

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- An advocacy group says an animal cruelty charge has been laid against a British Columbia man after a dog nearly died of a serious flea infestation. The SPCA says in a release that an older terrier named Rascal was rushed to an animal hospital on Vancouver Island earlier this year after losing about 85 per cent of his blood to fleas. Source
  • 'Tis the season for doorstep stealing? Shoppers vent about delivery security

    Canada News CBC News
    Todd Bailey is fed up with delivery companies that drop his online purchases at his door. A few years ago, the Grande Prairie, Alta., resident was at the hospital for the birth of his child when a big-screen TV he had ordered was left on his front stoop. Source