First Nations Child Welfare

photo credit: Liam Sharp

On February 27, 2007, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (Caring Society) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) filed a human rights complaint on behalf of First Nations children based on the following reasons:

  • The Department of Indian Affairs (INAC) funds First Nations child welfare delivery on reserve. In 2005, FNCFCS found that the federal child welfare funding formula was inadequate to ensure First Nations child and family services agencies could meet mandated child welfare requirements and provide culturally based services. As a result, many First Nations children are currently taken into care unnecessarily.
  • There are more First Nations children in child welfare care in Canada today than the height of residential schools. According to an audit conducted by the Auditor General of Canada, the percentages of children in care on reserves ranged from 0 to 28% in 2007. The proportion of children on reserves residing in care is far greater than that of children living off reserves.
  • Children should not get less government funding for essential services than other children because of their race and national ethnic origin.

The federal government is trying to derail the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on its treatment of First Nations children by asking the tribunal to dismiss the complaint filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society. Even though the federal court has decided not to hear Canada’s motion to stop the tribunal, the newly appointed chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Shirish Chotalia, by the Conservative government, has agreed to hear Canada’s motion to dismiss.

Cindy Blackstock
Human Rights Tribunal Cross Examination of Cindy Blackstock on her affidavit in opposition to the government's motion to dismiss the tribunal looking into discrimination of First Nations children on Feb. 16 2010

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare opened on September 14, 2009. Since the new chair of the Human Rights Tribunal was appointed in Nov. 2009, the subsequent scheduled hearings have been postponed until April 6, 2010.

On March 14, 2011, the chair of the Human Rights Tribunal (Shirish Chotalia) made her ruling to dismiss the Human Rights Tribunal Hearings on whether or not the federal government is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing less child welfare benefit on reserve.

According to the Caring society, “in issuing this ruling, Chair Shirish Chotalia, in effect legalized racial discrimination against vulnerable children on reserve by the Federal Government”. Following this ruling, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society immediately appealed Chair Shirish Chotalia’s decision to the Federal Court.

From Feb. 13 to Feb. 15, 2012, the Federal Court Appeal on this historic Human Rights case on behalf of First Nations children will commence.

5 Parties (organizations) will be presenting their opinions and legal arguments at the Appeal. They are the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Chiefs of Ontario, and Amnesty International. The Respondent (Canada) will also present its argument.

For each Party’s position, please see the Summary of the positions of the parties to the judicial review (Appeal) of Canadian Human Rights Chair Chotalia’s decision to dismiss the First Nations child welfare case prepared by the Caring Society. (PDF document)

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, says that
“the Government of Canada should not be immune from human rights laws and obligations to First Nations children because of a legal technicality
and we will take all necessary measures to ensure that this case is decided in a public forum on the full set of facts – the children deserve nothing less.”

What can we do?

Photo Credit: Liam Sharp,

Be a Witness: Follow Canadian Human Rights Tribunal looking into discrimination against First Nations children on

Listen to a lecture by Cindy Blackstock on Wednesday,  Sept 22, 2010 – Is this our Canada? How racial discrimination in children’s services undermines the potential of this generation of First Nations children and what you can do to help

Find out the Seven Free Ways to Make a Difference for First Nations Children:

For comprehensive background information, research and publications on First Nations Child Welfare, check

Some background reading for a better historical understanding of the state of First Nations Child Welfare:

Related Posts:

Canadian Colonialism: The Attawapiskat Humanitarian Crisis – an Example of Continuing Oppression and Genocide by Canadian Government

Solidarity with Attawapiskat! Learn, Speak up, and Rally on Feb. 14 2012!!

February 14 is Have a Heart Day for First Nations Children, click the image below for details.

image credit: FNCFCS

One thought on “First Nations Child Welfare

  1. The child and family services on reserve are mandated under the provincial or territorial child and family legislation. However, the federal government i.e. INAC administers and monitors these services. The level of funding available to the First Nations child and family services agencies or bands acts as a function of control to what services to be delivered.

    Child and family services program offered by INAC provides services on reserve, but without adequate funding, these services are not available or accessible to the First Nations children and families on reserve. This is not a meaningful program.

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