Rights Tribunal’s Dismissal of First Nations Child Welfare Complaint Overturned

Canadian Human Rights Act applies to services provided by the Government of Canada to First Nations

Ottawa – April 18, 2012 – The Canadian Human Rights Commission applauds the Federal Court’s decision to strike down the dismissal of an important human rights complaint brought by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations against the Government of Canada.

The complainants alleged that federal funding for child welfare services on reserves is inadequate, and in comparison to funding for child welfare provided by provinces, amounts to discrimination against First Nations children and families in violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The CHRC had referred the case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal so that the facts could be reviewed and a decision made on the matter, but the Tribunal dismissed the complaint last March, on the grounds that federal and provincial funding levels could not be compared.

That decision was overturned by the Federal Court in a decision released today. In it, the Court said the Tribunal had erred, and sent the complaint back to the Tribunal for adjudication.

“The issue here is one of access to justice for some of Canada’s most vulnerable people,” Acting Chief Commissioner David Langtry said. “Do First Nations children and their families have access to the same human rights protections as everyone else in Canada? It’s a fundamental issue that speaks to the intent of Parliament in its historic 2008 decision to expand the Canadian Human Rights Act to cover matters under the Indian Act,” he said.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission joined the complainants in seeking judicial review of the Tribunal’s dismissal of the complaint, in representation of the public interest. The CHRC maintains that this case can have significant impact on a broad range of issues involving federally funded programs and services such as police, health, and education on reserves.

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For further information or to request an interview, please call:

David Gollob,
Director of Communications
Canadian Human Rights Commission
(613) 943-9118