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

  • Man charged in toddler's 2014 death linked to snake venom

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - A 51-year-old man has been arrested in the 2014 death of a two-year-old girl and North Vancouver Mounties say it's believe she was poisoned by snake venom. Police say Henry Thomas had the girl in his care on May 18, 2014, and returned her to her mother that day in North Vancouver. Source
  • 7 shot to death at home in Mexican resort city of Cancun

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY - Authorities say three gunmen have shot to death seven people at a house in the Mexican resort city of Cancun, in an apparent dispute between street-level drug dealers. Cancun is located in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo. Source
  • B.C. man who left moose to suffer before death is convicted, fined in court

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA -- A man who illegally shot a moose in British Columbia's southern Interior has been fined $10,000 after leaving the animal to suffer before it died. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says it began an investigation in November 2017 after the man from Surrey, B.C. Source
  • Premier says no changes to Quebec gun registry despite call for better screening

    Canada News CTV News
    QUEBEC - The head of the Quebec City mosque where six men were killed in a shooting almost two years ago wants the province to tighten up controls over who has access to firearms. In a letter to Premier Francois Legault, Boufeldja Benabdallah identifies a weakness when it comes to verifying people who have mental health problems. Source
  • Man who killed Const. Sarah Beckett gets partial parole for rehab treatment

    Canada News CTV News
    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - A drunk driver who killed RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett in a crash has been granted limited day parole to attend alcohol abuse treatment. Kenneth Fenton was handed a five-year, six-month prison sentence in July 2017 and his first parole hearing was held today at a medium-security prison in Abbotsford, B.C. Source
  • Expect more extreme hurricanes on the East Coast due to faster ice melts in Greenland, study says

    World News CBC News
    Ice is melting in an unexpected region of Greenland at a rate that is unprecedented in the past century, according to a study published Monday, which could lead to rising sea levels and increasingly wild weather on the East Coast. Source
  • European Union sanctions heads of Russian intelligence for poisoning former spy and daughter

    World News CBC News
    The European Union has sanctioned the heads of Russia's military intelligence and two of their officers for poisoning a former Russian double agent in Britain last year, a decision Moscow dismissed as groundless. The EU travel bans and asset freezes issued Monday are against two men Britain has named as Russia intelligence officers Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and accused of attempting to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Source
  • Russia brandishes new superweapons as U.S. threatens to scrap nuclear treaty

    World News CBC News
    Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday. Source
  • Man accused of throwing trailer hitch at woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., to stand trial for 2nd degree murder

    Canada News CBC News
    A Thunder Bay, Ont., man will stand trial for second degree murder in the death of an Indigenous woman who was hit by a trailer hitch in January 2017. Brayden Bushby was initially charged with aggravated assault, accused of throwing a metal trailer hitch from a moving vehicle which struck 34-year-old Barbara Kentner. Source
  • Death toll in Mexico pipeline fire reaches 89

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- The death toll in a massive fire at an illegally tapped pipeline in Mexico rose to 89 Monday as more of the injured have died at hospitals. Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer said 51 victims severely burned in the fire were still in hospitals, two of them in Galveston, Texas. Source