There is no indication that Canada will withdraw its request for judicial review of human rights tribunal orders, says Cindy Blackstock

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 15, 2016.

Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press

There is no indication that Canada will withdraw its application for judicial review of two human rights tribunal orders despite a motion passed in the House of Commons on the matter on Monday, said First Nations children’s advocate Cindy Blackstock .

Ms Blackstock told The Globe and Mail that her organization, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, is preparing for hearings in Federal Court starting Monday.

“We will go to court and the children will win,” she said. “And when they do, the Canadiens will win too. “

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An NDP motion was passed in the House of Commons on Monday with 271 MPs from all political parties voting for, including several Liberal MPs, and 0 against. The motion included calls in Ottawa to end legal actions against Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders regarding discrimination against Indigenous children.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet abstained on the vote on the motion. Its adoption is considered an expression of the House but is not binding, which means that the government cannot be compelled to act. The Liberal government has faced increased political pressure on supports for First Nations children after child remains were reported at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Trudeau said on Tuesday his government was “very clear that the children or now the adults” who have suffered harm at the hands of the child welfare system deserve compensation. He also noted the adoption of a law on the child protection system and efforts to ensure that indigenous communities “remain in charge of and can protect, within the framework of their language and culture, children at risk ”.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said on Tuesday the Liberal caucus was not siding with the Prime Minister on Monday’s motion.

“It’s supposed to be his most important relationship and he skipped the vote,” Mr. Angus said. “I don’t think that gives him a free pass, then, to go back to court to continue fighting the children.” Parliament has spoken.

Ottawa has filed applications for judicial review of two orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the Federal Court. The body was established by Parliament in 1977 and legally decides whether a person or organization has engaged in a discriminatory practice as defined by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The purpose of the law is to protect individuals from discrimination and declares that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment and an environment free from discrimination.

In 2019, the court found that the federal government deliberately and recklessly discriminated against Indigenous children on reserves by failing to fund child and family services. He also ordered Ottawa to provide up to $ 40,000 to First Nations children who were needlessly taken into care on or after January 1, 2006, adding that his orders also cover parents or grandparents and children. deprived of essential services.

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Ottawa said in its application for judicial review that it did not oppose the general principle that compensation for First Nations people affected by a discriminatory funding model can be provided in appropriate circumstances. But he said the government sees grounds for the claim based on its belief that the court erred in its decision, including on the order for monetary compensation to the children, parents and grandparents of the First Nations under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

A second court order relates to Jordan’s Principle, which seeks to ensure that First Nations children can access services and supports when they need them. It demands that children have access to services without delay caused by skill issues.

In 2020, the court concluded that Jordan’s Principle criteria could include a child who is registered or eligible for registration under the Indian Act, a child whose parent or guardian is registered under the Indian Act. Indian Act, a child recognized by his community for the purposes of Jordan’s Principle and a child who is ordinarily resident on a reserve.

The government also said legal questions regarding the scope of the court’s power to make these decisions are important and that it is seeking court advice.

A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said in a statement that Ottawa had made “substantial progress” in responding to Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings.

“Our position regarding the September 2019 decision is that the CHRT exceeds its jurisdiction and, therefore, unilaterally imposes a one-size-fits-all solution that hinders fair compensation,” said press secretary Adrienne Vaupshas. .

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