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A MESSAGE FROM CHIEF RON EVANS

A historical ruling was made on January 26, 2016 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in favor of First Nations Children in Canada. In 2007, Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada along with the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint against the Federal Government of Canada based on discrimination against First Nations children residing on-reserve. The FNC & FCSC claimed that the government provided approximately 30% less funding for child welfare agencies on- reserve then those funded provincially. The decision legally obligates the Federal government to revamp their on-reserve child welfare programs.

One part of the complaint included the full implementation of Jordan?s Principle (JP) to ensure equitable health care services are awarded to First Nations children. This principle was named after the late Jordan River Anderson, son of Ernest and the late Virginia Anderson from Norway House Cree Nation (NHCN). Jordan had complex medical needs which meant he had to remain in a Winnipeg hospital for the first few year of his life. The family had to make the difficult decision to place Jordan in the care of the Kinisao Sipi Minisowin Agency (KSMA) as they did not have the necessary support services they needed to care for him at home.

In the last two year of his life, his doctors gave him and his family the go ahead that he could return to NHCN. KSMA had secured a medical trained foster home for him. Due to his need for special equipment and because he was returning to love on-reserve, a dispute between the Provincial and Federal governmental departments arose as to who would cover the costs associated with his care and equipment. Jordan remained in the hospital while the dispute continued, and sadly, Jordan passed away at the age of five.

With the political support of NHCN Chief & Council, and with former Councillor Mike Muswagon leading and advocating on behalf of the Anderson family, Jordan?s Principle emerged. Jordan's Principle states:
"Where a jurisdictional dispute arises between two government parties (provincial/territorial or federal) or between two departments or ministries of the same government, regarding payment for services for a Status Indian child which are otherwise available to other Canadian children, the government or ministry/department of first contact must pay for the services without delay or disruption."

On December 12, 2007, then Member of Parliament Jean Crowder of the NDP tabled a Private Members bill in the House of Commons in Ottawa which was unanimously passed. 

Up until this decision by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) was made, Jordan's Principle was narrowly defined by the Federal government. Individuals, who sought support, were denied because they did not meet the criteria. The CHRT has ordered the full implementation of Jordan's Principle to ensure that all First Nations children have equal access to health care on reserve.

Jerleen Anderson, daughter of Ernest Anderson, expressed how pleased and excited her father is for all the First Nations children with disabilities or complex medical needs in Canada, who are in need of proper health care services. But she is still sensitive about the issues because of what Jordan and his family endured during that time.

Cindy Blackstock, following the CHRT decision, stated that she is "very grateful to have worked alongside with Norway House Cree Nation and the Anderson family, because now 163,000 First Nations children that reside on Canadian reserve will have equal access to proper services. Even though this is a victory, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensuring this is fully implemented".

Council and I congratulated Ms. Blackstock following the CHRT decision. It is such a privilege for NHCN to have had a passionate advocate for First Nations children on- reserve.

For more information regarding Jordan's Principle or the decision made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, please visit the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada website at https://fncaringsociety.com/jordans-principle.

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