The Hill Times, October 21, 201
I never thought a 40-day campaign period could be so long. So many words and so little principle.
We looked for opportunities to engage on discussions on the future of health and social services, including for Indigenous peoples. And instead of the urgent conversations needed to address this priority for many Canadians and Indigenous health-care leaders, we received the odd recycled, tabledrop announcement. Indigenous health and well-being were politicized for partisan gain.
Then it got worse.
Indigenous parents and grandparents across the country were horrified when the Trudeau government decided to appeal the landmark human rights ruling that the federal government has discriminated against Indigenous children in child welfare by underfunding the system for decades. Services provided by the federal government through both Liberal and Conservative leadership have been underfunded for decades. This trend started in residential schools when the political elite of the 1890s decided on their best racist beliefs that “Indian” children should be removed from their parents so the kids can be civilized. But done cheaply, of course.
The underfunding continues in child welfare, education, health, social services, and governance functions, including water and waste collections. Tax dollars are collected yearly then distributed to provinces/territories which then distributes to child welfare, education, health, social services, and governance functions. Every Canadian can expect to receive equitable services. If child welfare in Toronto was so lacking for social workers that the wait times were up to a year or kids routinely got inadequate protection services that risked their lives, Torontonians would be outraged. Because we have a social accord that all these services need to be funded to work well. It’s one of Canada’s social accords … except for First Nations kids. One of the longest trends in Canadian federal budgets is the underfunding for Indigenous kids—130 years and counting. At least 102 Indigenous children died while in child welfare systems in Ontario in 2013-2017.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled “it has sufficient evidence to find that Canada’s conduct was willful and reckless” as it continued to underfund First Nations kids’ welfare. The 2019 ruling is on top of the 2016 ruling in which the Tribunal found “Canada’s conduct was devoid of caution with little to no regard to the consequences… Canada was aware of the [funding] discrimination and of some of its serious consequences … Canada focused on financial considerations rather than on the best interests of First Nations children and respecting their human rights.” Sounds like an American HMO.
Some positive movement has occurred since the 2016 ruling but the overall quality of services for First Nations kids and the unreasonably high proportion of kids in care hasn’t improved. So now Canada was ordered to compensate for their reckless and willful decision to continue to underfund First Nations child welfare.
The horror is the Liberals’ decision to refuse to change their ways and the Conservatives stating they would do the same. The fact is that a request for a procedural delay until after the election was the obvious choice. An ethical choice. The fact is that this government would have known this ruling was coming, and, instead, somebody thought that Canadians wouldn’t care if they cast aside First Nations kids, yet again, and timed their announcement to appeal during the election.
The horror of First Nations families across Canada is that we might have to endure more blatant discrimination based on race. Canadians should start advocating and demanding equitable services for Indigenous people as though they were family or neighbours.
Indigenous people got an early Halloween this year this election, and it’s scary and horrible. It’s not safe for children, this one.