Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

All about the children

BY Will Nicholls Dec 6, 2019

Any sane person should be asking questions about the Canadian political system. Anyone with a sense of humanity and common decency should ask their elected representatives just what it is that Canada’s governments have against Indigenous children?

We have seen the devastation of the residential school system that continues to this day. The last residential school closed in 1996. Hidden gravesites, medical experiments, sexual abuse and intentional starvation of children. It’s hard to fathom. The infamous Sixties Scoop saw more than 200,000 Indigenous children taken from their parents and placed with non-Indigenous families in North America and Europe. 

Now we have jurisprudence that relies on Jordan’s Principle. This arose after an Indigenous child died while the federal and provincial governments argued over who had the responsibility to provide health care for him. Jordan’s Principle ensures that First Nations children can access all public services when they need them. 

Despite this, more Indigenous children are in foster care now than at the height of the residential school system. In fact, 52% of all children in foster care in Canada are Indigenous even though we only comprise 7% of the total population. A large part of this can be laid at the feet of the federal government, which has consistently underfunded social services for on-reserve children compared to the level of support in all other jurisdictions. 

On September 6 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada has “willfully and recklessly” discriminated against on-reserve kids and ordered the government to pay $40,000 to each child affected since this case was launched in 2006, as well as $20,000 to some parents and grandparents. The feds were given until December 10 to determine how to pay the victims.

Now, however, despite the 12 years it took to settle this case because of repeated federal delaying tactics, Ottawa has asked the Federal Court of Canada to quash the Tribunal’s order. Now Canada wants to tie it to an existing class-action lawsuit that goes back to 1991. Those with long memories will recall that it was the federal government that insisted this case go to the Human Rights Tribunal in the first place. A worse case of bad faith is difficult to imagine.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller did say that the government is “committed to compensation; we do not deny the discrimination.” But actions speak louder than words. While the government encourages us to say “Lest we forget” on Remembrance Day, when it comes to Canada’s Indigenous children their motto seems to be “May we forget.”

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.