US & Canada

Canada short-changed First Nation children - court ruling

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cindy Blackstock (pictured), filed a complaint against the government in 2007

Canada discriminates against First Nation children by providing less money for their child welfare system, a human rights tribunal has ruled.

A First Nations group filed a complaint about it with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007.

Child welfare systems on reserves receive up to 38% less funding than elsewhere in the country, the CBC calculates.

Canada must "cease the discriminatory practice," the ruling says.

The report found that the way the government runs First Nations family and child services "resulted in denials of services and created various adverse impacts for many First Nations children and families living on reserves."

The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, which filed the complaint, said the ruling found the government to be providing "flawed and inequitable child welfare services" for 163,000 First Nations children.

"This is a great day for First Nations children and all Canadians who believe in justice and fairness," said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the group. "Racial discrimination against children must not be tolerated."

Canadian officials said they welcomed the decision and they believe First Nation communities deserve adequate funding.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Justin Trudeau has promised an improved relationship with First Nations communities

"The Tribunal has made it clear that the system in place today is failing. In a society as prosperous and as generous as Canada, this is unacceptable. This Government agrees that we can and must do better," said Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett.

She said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked her to work with First Nations peoples in Canada to improve relations and programmes.

The federal government tried to have the case dismissed numerous times.

Mr Trudeau made an improved relationship with First Nations peoples one of his campaign promises.

He has said he would make a government inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in an appeal to First Nations chiefs, calling it "top priority" of his Liberal government.

Mr Trudeau has also promised to fulfil recommendations of a study that found Canada required aboriginals to attend state-funded schools, resulting in "cultural genocide".

"Working together as partners, I am confident that we can make meaningful and immediate progress on the issues that matter most to First Nations communities," Mr Trudeau said last December.

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