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 email@example.com 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/
The Spring 2017 IN Perspective is out and available to read here. This season’s newsletter features the following articles:
- Executive Update
- Message from the Representative for Children and Youth
- Training Participant Profiles
- BLOOMM Update
- Cultural Perspectives Training
- Button Blanket Project
- Training Update
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I was encouraged to take Cultural Perspectives Training by a friend of mine but was a little reluctant at first. I caved and enjoyed a very fruitful day of learning and reconnecting to my core principles. I did not foresee that it would reconnect me to my own Maori Indigenous heritage to the degree that it has.
We all need to do our part in the healing process by recognizing the impact of the atrocities the Indigenous people of Canada have endured, first by the British and followed by the government of Canada, through legislation and confiscation of land and culture. The genocidal practices designed to destroy communities by forcing people onto reserves, separating children from their families and the subsequent emotional, physical and sexual abuse they experienced.
I believe our government needs to do the right thing and steps should be taken immediately to correct past transgressions both provincially and federally. The steps should address healing, caregiving, education, training, and economic development with supportive oversight and capacity development where it is needed.
Reconciliation means developing and delivering rightful restitution for all of the wrongs that have occurred to Indigenous people in Canada. It means restoring the natural resources, traditional lands and financial compensation for what was historically confiscated and taken away from them. This can only occur after recognizing and acknowledging the full effects of what transpired. Self-determination is central to recovery.
My taking action to support Reconciliation gave me a feeling of satisfaction and relief. I have always had a community focus in my life but I had drifted off course somewhat and this training has refocused my efforts and given me voice. Since taking Cultural Perspectives Training I have been reaching out to work with First Nations communities and organizations to help where I can.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about participating in CPT?
Do it. It can only benefit you. It may even make you emotionally stronger.
What do you wish other people knew about Indigenous Perspectives Society?
I wish they knew this training is available to everyone. It was a great day of learning.
Cultural Perspectives Training is 7 hours of in-class learning complimented by 8 hours of online learning completed over 4 weeks of study.
To register for the February 28, 2017 training session visit https://ipsociety.ca/cultural-competency-training/cptraining/
To support Indigenous Perspectives Society’s (IPS) mission to provide culturally relevant training, research and policy that advances and strengthens lives of Indigenous peoples, IPS is seeking to meet with organizations that are in the process of developing and evaluating their responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action to assess knowledge needs.
“We want to hear from organizations in the early stages of planning their responses to the TRC Calls to Action to learn about how they are developing their responses, what their educational needs are, if their planning includes hiring Indigenous employees, and what they envision their indicators of success will be. Out of our assessment process, participating organizations will receive a suggested action plan,” said Linda Lucas, Executive Director for Indigenous Perspectives Society. “Our Society cares deeply about the importance of Reconciliation for the well-being of Indigenous children and families, and we want to support and encourage organizations engaging in this process.”
Opportunity for participation is limited, with assessments scheduled to occur from February 6-10, March 6-10, and March 13-17. Interested organizations can contact Alesha Doran at firstname.lastname@example.org and 250 391 0007 ext. 260.
Participants in IPS’ Knowledge Needs Assessment will receive an email link to a confidential online survey, followed up with an in-person or telephone interview to assess organizational capacity in relationship to TRC Calls to Action response planning. Participation includes a 2-3 hour time commitment for the questionnaire and interview process. Participants will receive a summary of the Knowledge Needs Assessment with customized recommendations for their organization.
Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS) is a charitable and not-for-profit social enterprise that offers training programs and services that help foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives, cultural differences, and the need for self-determination. By creating excellence through training and leadership, we help strengthen lives and build successful relationships in our communities.
Beginning with a focus on Indigenous child and family service delivery through the CARF International accredited Aboriginal Social Work training series, IPS has grown to include Cultural Perspectives Training, Adoption Online, Recruitment and Retention of Indigenous People, and more. By creating excellence though training and leadership, IPS has been supporting communities throughout British Columbia and across Canada for more than 22 years.
To learn more about Indigenous Perspectives Society visit https://ipsociety.ca/
Linda Lucas, Executive Director, 250 391 0007
Alesha Doran, Business Development Coordinator, 250 391 0007 ext.260 and 250 857 4962