Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa – www.ipsmo.org

May 25, 2010

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

PURPOSE: To witness the motion to dismiss the Human Rights Hearings on whether or not the federal government is treating First Nations children fairly.
DATE: June 2 and 3, 2010 (9:30-5:00)
LOCATION: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, 11th floor, 160 Elgin Street, Ottawa ALGONQUIN TERRITORY

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society is trying to get as much support out to 160 Elgin Street as possible on June 2nd and 3rd.  The hearings begin at 9:30, break at 12:00 for lunch and then go until 5:00.  If people could come even for a part of that time (like an hour or so) it would be great.

Please click here to read the message from Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society.

This is a historic case because it would be the first time in Canadian history that a Tribunal hearing has dealt with a whole people being discriminated against (systemic discrimination), not just individuals.  The impact would be immense.  Please come out and show our solidarity with First Nations children and families.

BACKGROUND

On Feb. 26, 2007, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) alleging that Canada is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing less child welfare funding, and thus benefits, on reserves.

However, the government of Canada is trying to use a legal loophole to request a dismissal of the case.  The loophole is that Canada is saying that they “fund” the services to the First Nations children, they do not “provide” the services. Canada says its funding, no matter how inequitable, is not a service and thus they should not be held accountable under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

On Nov. 24, 2009, a Federal Court Prothonotary (legal person) rules that Canada’s application to strike the tribunal should be stayed (held up) until after the tribunal is over.  On January 8, 2010, Chair Shirish Chotalia (who was newly appointed by the Conservative Government on November 2, 2009) postponed all tribunal hearing dates for January and February 2010 and has decided to hear Canada’s motion to dismiss the tribunal. Cindy Blackstock, Tom Geoff, Elsie Flett, who issued their affidavits to oppose Canada’s application to dismiss the tribunal, were cross-examined in the months of February and March.  On June 2 and 3, Canada’s lawyer and the Human Rights lawyer will be presenting their arguments to the Tribunal chair and a decision on the motion to dismiss the Tribunal will be made.  AFN, Caring Society, Amnesty International and the Chiefs of Ontario will be present to state their opposition to Canada.

The fact that Canada has been unable to find even one social worker to testify that their funding leads to good things for children and families is indicative of their culpability. They only have one expert witness and he is a chartered general accountant with no known credentials or experience in child welfare. If Canada loses on this legal loophole then the First Nations children and families will have equal opportunities to the rest of Canadians because the Government will have to “make it right”.

The more people, especially youth that come to witness this event, the greater the message to Canada that the government cannot get away with violating basic human rights of these children (according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), which underfunding of First Nations Child and Family Services represents.  This is an opportunity for non-Aboriginal people to show that we care!

For the latest news on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal: http://www.fnwitness.ca/

JUNE 2 & 3

The proceedings will open with Canada saying why they want to have the tribunal dismissed.  Then AFN and the Caring Society will say why they oppose what Canada is asking for and why we feel it is so important to have this heard on the merits and not decided on the legal loophole.  Amnesty International and the Chiefs of Ontario will go next and they have both said they oppose Canada’s application.  Canada then responds.

There will be some discussion of the cross examinations but in general it will be lawyers testifying.  This is a crucial step however as we believe Canada has a very weak case on the merits given that their own documents admit they under fund child welfare and that under funding drives children into child welfare care.  There is also the Auditor General Report and our experts to contend with.  Canada has been unable to find even one social worker to testify that their funding leads to good things for children and families. They only have one expert witness and he is a chartered general accountant with no known credentials or experience in child welfare.

This in many ways is the case – if Canada loses on this legal loophole then they are sunk and the kids are in great shape.  If you are wondering what the legal loophole is it is that the Canadian Human Rights Act covers discrimination on the basis of goods, services and accommodation. Canada says its funding, no matter how inequitable, is not a service and thus they should not be held accountable under the act.  We worry deeply about this tactic as it appears to prioritize government’s desire to escape accountability over the needs of very vulnerable children.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Beating up on kids in court of decency: http://www.edmontonsun.com/comment/columnists/mindelle_jacobs/2010/05/14/13948786.html

Interview with Cindy Blackstock on CBC Radio’s “The Current”:  http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:SAX6dvpCieAJ:www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2009/200911/20091123.html+cindy+blackstock+carolyn+buffalo&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca (scroll down to “Child Welfare – Native Kids” and click on “Listen to Part 2”).

“Aboriginal kids suffer while governments bicker”: http://www.carleton.ca/Capital_News/03042009/n2.shtml

Interview with Cindy Blackstock, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada: http://previous.ncra.ca/exchange/dspProgramDetail.cfm?programID=86115

Lisa Abel interviews Cindy Blackstock on the First Nations Child Welfare Tribunal, September 17, 2009: http://previous.ncra.ca/exchange/dspProgramDetail.cfm?programID=90196

Before You Say You’re Sorry, The government apologizes to one generation of aboriginal Canadians while wronging another: http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/write-the-wrong2009/

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