Human rights ruling has First Nations calling for action

Ottawa has been told it's not providing the same level of welfare services funding for children on Canadian reserves

Local First Nations are demanding action to ensure the care of all children.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government has not  provided the same level of welfare services funding for children on Canadian reserves than for those off reserves.

“The tribunal’s ruling is a vindication of our struggle to have recognition of our law and to secure sufficient funding from Canada to deliver programs and support to all our Splatsin children and families,” said Wayne Christian, Splatsin chief.

A similar message is coming from the Okanagan Indian Band.

”The answer is not to shuffle money around, but to invest an equitable amount of resources and create First Nations informed ways of caring for the well-being of our children,” said Chief Byron Louis.

“We look forward to sitting at the table with decision-makers and creating actionable results based on respect for Syilx knowledge and expertise of Okanagan family and community strengths, values and traditions.”

The issue of children’s care has been of importance for Christian since 1980 when he rallied against government policies and underfunded programs.

While the Splatsin initiated a child welfare bylaw, Christian says the provincial government has attempted to keep control of band children, which led the band to initiate a notice of claim in October.

“It’s forced us to a legal battle with the province of B.C. over our right to determine the best interests of Splatsin children in need of care and protection,” he said.

This federal decision calls for funding and support for First Nations to deliver our own services and coupled with the first five recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation report, these major initiatives tell us that our people nearly 40 years ago were right and thinking of those yet unborn.”

Christian is calling for the issue to be resolved.

“We call upon the province to take heed of the tribunal’s decision and work with us, instead of against us; to recognize the place of our children in Splatsin/Secwepemc culture,” he said.

“We will no longer tolerate the federal government and B.C. making agreements about our children without us.”