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Delay at Human Rights Tribunal put vulnerable Children at Risk

First Nations Children deserve better Treatment from Canada

Toronto, March 4 – On the 28th of February, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada filed an application with the Federal Court to request the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to schedule future hearing dates regarding the human rights complaint against the Federal Government. The complaint alleges that the federal government racially discriminates against First Nations children by providing less child welfare benefits on reserves. The complaint was filed in 2007 by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS). In 2010, the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) were granted intervener status on the complaint due to the distinctive relationship under the 1965 Indian Welfare Agreement.Hearings on the facts were scheduled to begin at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), however in November of 2009 the case was further delayed by the retirement of Tribunal Chair Grant Sinclair. Replacing Sinclair was the appointment of a second Tribunal Chair Shirish Chotalia who cancelled the hearing dates after only four days into her appointment. The federal government then had the opportunity to file jurisdictional motion to dismiss the case, in which hearings were held on this motion on June 2 and 3, 2010 with no decision to date. The Tribunal’s own guidelines require a ruling to be rendered within four months. That timeline expired and so did the Tribunal’s second guideline requiring a ruling within six months at the latest.

Grand Chief Randall Phillips from the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians expressed his deep concern over the extended delays of the case, stating “The tribunal must maintain the process they were suppose to regarding adjudication and it is crucial to our membership as well as the wellbeing of our children this complaint be heard expeditiously.”

Grand Chief Phillips, who is also the Ontario Chair for Chiefs on Child Welfare, adds his support for steps being taken by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, indicating “Justice delayed is justice denied. First Nations should not have to stand idly by while the impact from the delay of the natural Justice of rights continues to put vulnerable children at risk and isolates First Nations children from our communities.”

Grand Chief Phillips is not alone in the plight for First Nations children’s equality, other key partners and stakeholders on First Nations Child Welfare have also made recent comments on the Tribunal’s delay;

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, filed the application in Federal Court today and stated, “I regret that filing this application was necessary but it is time for the children to come first. They are in vulnerable situations and these repeated delays by the federal government perpetuate their vulnerability. Children and the facts need to come before legal loopholes and government efforts to keep Canadians in the dark.”1

Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth also verified that, “resolution of the case is too important to children to delay any further.” Elman further adds, that “Many, many First Nation children live in very difficult circumstances across the country and in Ontario. Resolution to the human Rights case one way or another will offer our Province and Country a way forward in altering these circumstances or in finding alternative strategies for creating change”, said Elman.2

In a statement from David Langtry, acting chief of the Canadian Human Rights Commission said the tribunal’s failure to deal with the two-year-old case was having a direct impact on the lives of vulnerable children. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has since written to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal requesting, Chair Shirish Chotalia to expedite the hearing of the complaint.3

Furthermore, Langtry`s in statement he explains, “the Federal Courts have stated this case should be heard. Case law from the courts has said that human right complaints should proceed expeditiously and the Commission supports the Tribunal in that effort. ”

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1 Assembly of First Nations – First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Pursues Court Order to Ensure Human Rights Complaint Against Federal Government Moves Forward. Ottawa. February 28, 2011.http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/news-media/latest-news/first-nations-child-and-family-caring-society-pursues-court-order-to-ensure

2 Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth – Children and Youth Need Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decision. Toronto. March 1, 2011. http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/documents/en/TribunalPressRelease Mar1_2011_E.pdf

3 News Release: Canadian Human Rights Commission – Statement by David Langtry, Acting Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission. Re: Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. V. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Ottawa. February 28, 2011. http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/media_room/news_releases-eng.aspx?id=633

For further information:

Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians
Grand Chief Phillips
(519) 434-2761
[email protected]

AIAI Social Services Director
Trina McGahey
(519) 434-2761
[email protected]