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New research sheds light on gaps in services for First Nations children in Canada

2015-02-10

Governments’ shortfall in implementing Jordan’s Principle is resulting in bureaucratic red tape that leaves kids without needed care

OTTAWA, February 10, 2015 – A new report released today, Without denial, delay or disruption: Ensuring First Nations children’s access to equitable services through Jordan’s Principle, highlights the ongoing inequity faced by First Nations children in Canada who need health and social services. The research report also reveals how bureaucratic confusion prevents First Nations children from accessing the care and support they need as quickly and efficiently as other children in Canada.

Today’s report is being released by researchers from McGill University, the University of Manitoba and the University of Michigan, in collaboration with representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Paediatric Society and UNICEF Canada.

Gaps in government response leave First Nations children without support

The governmental response to Jordan’s Principle falls far short of realizing the vision of Jordan’s Principle advanced by First Nations and endorsed by the House of Commons in 2007. The current federal and provincial/territorial governmental response narrows the range of cases, service domains, and jurisdictional disputes to which Jordan’s Principle will be applied, introduces delays in payment for services in cases involving jurisdictional disputes, excludes First Nations from Jordan’s Principle implementation and case resolution processes, and lacks mechanisms for ensuring transparency and accountability.

Government must put children first and clear bureaucratic red tape

Based on the research findings, the Jordan’s Principle working group is calling on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to:

  • Ensure the human, constitutional and treaty rights of First Nations children by working together with First Nations to develop and implement a response for First Nations children that truly reflects the vision of Jordan’s Principle, as it was advanced by First Nations and endorsed by the House of Commons in 2007.
  • Work together with First Nations to implement systematic measures to deal with issues of underfunding and jurisdictional ambiguity that cause Jordan’s Principle cases. By clarifying jurisdictional responsibilities and eliminating the underfunding identified in individual cases, governments can prevent denials, delays and disruptions in services for other children in similar circumstances.

The report emphasizes that these changes will go a long way to ensuring the equitable treatment of First Nations children outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and other federal/ provincial/territorial/First Nations legislation and agreements.

Jordan’s Principle background

Jordan’s Principle is a child first principle intended to ensure that First Nations children don’t experience denials, delays, or disruptions of services ordinarily available to other children due to jurisdictional disputes. It is named in honour of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who encountered tragic delays in services due to governmental jurisdictional disputes that denied him an opportunity to live outside of a hospital setting before his death in 2005. Jordan’s Principle responds to complex systems for funding and delivering services, which treat Status First Nations children differently than other children in Canada.

Responsibility for services to First Nations children is often shared by federal, provincial/territorial and First Nations governments; in contrast, funding and delivery of these same services to most other children in Canada may fall solely under provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In addition, the federal government funds some health services for off-reserve, Status First Nations children. Accordingly, First Nations families face additional challenges in navigating and accessing services for their children, and Jordan’s Principle is an essential mechanism for ensuring that the needs and best interests of these children are met and that their human, constitutional, and treaty rights are given full effect. Jordan’s Principle states that in cases involving jurisdictional disputes, the government or government department first approached should pay for and provide services that would ordinarily be available to other children in Canada; the dispute over payment for services can be settled afterwards.

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Media Resources:

Full report

Jordan’s Principle information sheet & backgrounder

#JordansPrinciple

About the organizations in the Jordan’s Principle Working Group:

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN): AFN is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 639 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country. The role of the AFN and the National Chief is to advocate on behalf of First Nations as directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly. This includes facilitation and coordination of national and regional discussions and dialogue, advocacy efforts and campaigns, legal and policy analysis, communicating with governments, including facilitating relationship building between First Nations and the Crown as well as public and private sectors and general public.

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS): CPS is the national association of paediatricians, working to advance the health of children and youth by nurturing excellence in health care, advocacy, education, research and support of its membership. As a voluntary professional association, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists, paediatric residents, and other people who work with and care for children and youth.

UNICEF Canada: UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries—more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child .

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.