Important legal victory in longstanding campaign to end discrimination against First Nations children

The Federal Court of Appeal has firmly rejected government efforts to shut down an important inquiry into discrimination against First Nations children.

The case concerns the well-established fact that the federal government allocates less funding per child for family services in First Nations reserves than its provincial counterparts provide in other communities.

In 2007, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal began hearings into the case this year. If the Tribunal agrees that this underfunding is discriminatory, the Tribunal has the power to order the government to change its policies.

The federal government has argued that its funding of services in First Nations communities is outside the scope of the Human Rights Act. At one point, the government succeeded in having the case thrown out by the Tribunal, but the Federal Court reversed the decision and ordered new hearings.

An appeal court decision released his week affirms that the allegations of discrimination against First Nations should be subject to a “broad fact-based inquiry” under the Human Rights Tribunal.

At this point, it isn’t clear whether the government will attempt a further appeal.

In the meantime, the Tribunal hearings will continue.

Amnesty International has supported the Caring Society in this case because of its importance to the well-being of First Nations children. We have also been concerned over the potential wide-ranging impact of the government’s efforts to shield itself from scrutiny and accountability under the Human Rights Act.

The federal government has long acknowledged that the Human Rights Act and the Human Rights Tribunal are central to its implementation of Canada’s international human rights obligations.

To read the response from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, click here

For more information about Amnesty’s work on discrimination against first nations children in Canada, click here