I see the injustice. What can I do? [Part II]

I see the injustice. What can I do? [Part II]

Rob Irish

June 7, 2021

The Children are Alive! And need our support

While most attention this past week has been focused quite rightly on the horrific and tragic findings at Kamloops Indian Residential School, there is an abuse of children unfolding in front of us, yet we are almost entirely unaware. 

This relates to Indigenous Child Welfare Services and the continued discrimination against Indigenous children today. 

Now. 

On our watch. 

The Facts of the Case:

In 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, led by Social Worker Dr. Cindy Blackstock, brought a human rights complaint against the Federal government for the unfair treatment of children on reserves in the Welfare system.  

The crux of the complaint was (and is) that the Federal government has been seriously underfunding the Indigenous Welfare system for children relative to the level of funding per child in the off-reserve provincially-run systems.  On the face of it, the facts are obvious—the government’s funding formula is inadequate; they give between 20 and 50% less than funding for non-indigenous children.  Moreover, the funding formula failed to create opportunities for prevention leading to much greater likelihood that children would be removed from their homes—normally a course of last resort. To make matters worse, those children were frequently removed from their culture and placed in White homes.  In a spiral of despair, more children removed from homes took more of the Child Welfare budget, which in turn left less for possible prevention and intervention, which then led to more children needing to be removed from homes. 

The Federal government fought the case at every step, trying to rule that it was not appropriate for the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) to hear the case, arguing that it was simply a different opinion of jurisdictions. Delay after delay. The government even took to spying on Dr. Blackstock! And all the time, more children were being treated as second-class citizens by the Federal Government system.  

The case was finally heard in 2014, and in 2015 the CHRT ruled in favour of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the children. The government’s action was found to be racially discriminatory. And the government was ordered to compensate the children and clean up the system.  Initially, when Jody Wilson-Raybaud was Attorney General, the government applauded the ruling, but in 2019 the government appealed.  Children who were 4 when the case started are now 18. And they are still stuck in a sub-standard racially discriminatory system.

What we can do: 

So, what can we do? First, don’t take my word for it, find out the facts. Here are three news articles that take it sequentially: 

In addition, you can watch the National Film Board documentary “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice” about the drawn-out court case. The documentary ends with the victory in the courts (2016)—it needs a coda about the government’s continued obstruction.

Second, now that you have read some things, write to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, David Lametti, the Attorney General, and Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Northern and Indian Affairs. 

Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to the Attorney General. Feel free to copy and paste this into your own email and then customize it as you wish. 

david.Lametti@parl.gc.ca

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca

Dear Hon. Mr. Lametti, Attorney General

I hope you are well.

Like most Canadians, I was deeply saddened to learn of the 215 children at Kamloops Residential School. Saddened, but unfortunately, not surprised.

While, like you, I love Canada, I know we have a dark streak of racism.

I would like to say that streak is in our past; however, the Federal government is continuing to fight against Child Welfare rulings that would demand a change in the system and compensation for the many children who were maltreated because of a racist Child Welfare System.

I am speaking, of course, of your Federal Court appeal against the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Human Rights Commission, Chiefs of Ontario, Amnesty International, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation. 

It is time to stop. It is time for the Federal Government to embrace care for Indigenous people and acknowledge the failing of past governance. The attempts to overturn the rulings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals should simply be dropped and the government should pay its share immediately.

That is the only just approach. And really, I know your government knows this. Dragging this out is wasting taxpayer dollars that could be used toward the compensation. As Liberals, you campaign on a platform of social justice. Now is a moment to deliver.

Indeed, in light of the Kamloops School tragedy and trauma, dropping these cases now and stepping up for indigenous people holds obvious moral logic. You should take the opportunity for the political win: the public is watching Indigenous issues and is grieving together over the deaths of the 215 children. Responding now with justice for living Indigenous children would be both a substantive and symbolic act toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.

We are watching and waiting.

<Insert your name>

<insert your address>

<cc. your MP>

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