First Nations ‘Overjoyed’ with Human Rights Ruling
Prince George, B.C. – “Overjoyed.”
The reaction of Mary Teegee, executive director of Child and Family Services for Carrier Sekani Family Services, after a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling this morning.
The ruling acknowledged the federal government discriminates against First Nations children due to the inequity of funding between children residing on reserve and those residing elsewhere.
“Oh, I was absolutely excited,” she says. “I had tears of joy, it’s been a long nine years and I’m just happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
The case dates back to February, 2007, when the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) first filed a complaint, alleging the Federal Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs’ provision of the First Nation Child and Family service was inequitable and discriminatory under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The complainants in the case have asked for compensation in the amount of $20,000 per child though the tribunal has yet to rule on that request.
“The Caring Society requests the compensation be placed in an independent trust to fund healing activities for the benefit of First Nations children who have suffered discrimination in the provision of child and family services,” argued the complainants at the hearings.
“It’s a good day, not only for First Nations people but a good day for Canadians. I think this is the first time ever that a developed nation has faced allegations against racial discrimination against it’s own citizens,” says Teegee.
“So having said that, Canada finally can start to hold up their head proud and say we’ve dealt with human rights in our own country, starting with this.”
She also says the ruling sets an important precedent “for addressing inequitable federal government service delivery to First Nations peoples in other areas such as education, health, housing and water.”
Moving forward, Teegee says First Nations will expect action.
“We are expecting action right away. I know that some of the first steps will be the ministers meeting with the AFN and FNCFCS and going from there having those conversations,” says Teegee. “I know that Carolyn Bennett (Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs) has also stated that she’s going to be meeting with the provinces to look at remedies.”