Monthly Archives: March 2017
Jordan’s Principle functions as an essential mechanism for ensuring human, constitutional, and treaty rights of Indigenous children. By establishing a procedure to guarantee immediate care for Indigenous children, Jordan’s Principle provides access to public services ordinarily available to other Canadian children so Indigenous children do not experience service denials, delays, or disruptions related to their First Nations status.
Jordan’s Principle is named to honour Jordan River Anderson, an Indigenous child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Jordan was born with Carey Fineman Ziter Syndrome, a rare muscular disorder that required medical treatment in a Winnipeg hospital. After spending the first two years of his life in a hospital, doctors felt he could return home. A disagreement between the province of Manitoba and the Canadian federal government on who should pay for his at home care caused Jordan to remain the hospital, and he died at the age of five years old in 2005. Jordan never knew what it was like to live in his family home.
After reflecting on Jordan’s Principle, I was reminded of when at 5 years old I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks with severe pneumonia. I shared a room with a girl who had polio. During the time I was there a couple of other children came and went. The nurses and doctors were nice, but it was lonely and frightening. I can’t imagine if that was my whole world.
Responsibility for services to First Nations children is often shared by federal, provincial/territorial, and First Nations governments; in contrast, funding and delivery of these same services to most other children in Canada falls solely under provincial/territorial jurisdiction. Canadian federal and provincial governments often dispute financial responsibility for services for Indigenous children, resulting in children being left waiting for services they desperately need. Due to structural racism in Canadian systems of governance and healthcare, Indigenous children are denied services that are available to other children.
A Member’s Motion (M-296) endorsing the adoption of Jordan’s Principle was unanimously passed in the Canadian House of Commons in 2007. The federal government subsequently led a governmental response to Jordan’s Principle, facilitating the development of federal and provincial/territorial policies and procedures for identifying Jordan’s Principle cases and resolving jurisdictional disputes over payment or provision of services to individual First Nations children. This process resulted in a limited application of Jordan’s Principle by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to children living on reserve with a disability or short-term condition.
In a landmark ruling on January 26, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to immediately stop applying a limited and discriminatory definition of Jordan’s Principle, and to immediately take measures to implement the full meaning and scope of the principle.
On July 6, 2016, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada submitted a compliance report to the Tribunal providing an update on its implementation of the principle. In the submission, the government committed to invest up to $382 million to implement a broader application of Jordan’s Principle.
Despite the increase in funding, the governmental response to the application of Jordan’s Principle does not reflect the vision and intention for service delivery advanced by First Nations and endorsed by the House of Commons. Reviews by the Canadian Paediatric Society and UNICEF Canada have highlighted shortcomings in the governmental response to Jordan’s Principle, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society is asking for all governments to work together to fully practice the intention and spirit of Jordan’s Principle.
About the Author
Alesha Hayes is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society – Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in beautiful Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.ipsociety.ca
I am the Executive Director for the Heiltsuk Kaxla Society and we are a level C3 Delegated Child Welfare Agency. My mother is Haida and my father is Irish-English, and I grew up for my first ten years in Haida Gwaii and then my family moved to live in the city. My Haida name translated to English means always doing something, it was my great-aunts name. I went back home as an adult and spent 6 years there helping set up our own child protection agency.
I was asked to come for a training refresher as I had been out of the country for three years, and needed update my knowledge and skills. I was unsure about the experience at first, but I am really enjoying the training and I think it is excellent. Indigenous Perspectives Society’s training is like a condensed university course, and I think it should be accredited. It is a great experience to be in the room with young workers and with others in the profession. Going through the coursework and through discussion, you can see things you already know from a new perspective and gain valuable insights.
I just love the work – When they asked me when I became a social worker it started for me as a young child in a rural community. I have always wanted to be a helper, some people know they are drummers or artists and I knew I wanted to help people. Directly helping families is where the best work is done. When I was younger I wanted to be an administrator, but then I realized the most rewarding part of this work is being able to work directly and respectfully with people. The most important thing for working with a family is everyone understanding the family’s circumstances and respecting them. Creating a network of support is how to really help people, and brings everyone together.
This is my last job before retirement and I am hoping all my knowledge can be transferred over to young workers. Heltsiuk wants their own people to manage the organization, so I am training young people to take on management roles. When I go, the organization will have its own people leading.
It is important to have people in the community managing child welfare who know their own culture and the families. When you are from a community’s culture, you understand that a messy house does not mean that children are being neglected and need to be taken away, just that it is the way people in that community live. I have seen more success helping families by going in with deep respect and listening to what people have to say about what is going on in their own home. They know what is going on and can identify what is happening. I have only had three children not be able to go back to their homes and that is because their special needs made it impossible to manage without the supports of care, and even then we made sure structures are in place to ensure connection is maintained.
More information about Indigenous Perspectives Society’s Aboriginal Social Work program can be found at https://ipsociety.ca/delegated-agency-support-training/social-work/