POLITICS

Trudeau Budget Continues Illegal Discrimination Against Indigenous Children: Cindy Blackstock

03/23/2017 05:59 EDT | Updated 03/23/2017 05:59 EDT

Child's rights activist Cindy Blackstock said it was a "sad day" after the Trudeau government announced $3.4 billion in funding for indigenous critical needs — none of which will be used to address the country's child welfare crisis.

The federal government tabled its second budget on Wednesday. The $3.4 billion in new money earmarked for indigenous communities will be rolled out through the next five years.

"Nothing in there despite three legal orders for the government of Canada to comply and make sure this generation of First Nations children isn't unnecessarily removed from their families because of Canada's inequitable funding," Blackstock, head of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, told CBC's Katie Simpson.

"That discrimination continues today."

cindy blackstock

Cindy Blackstock speaks at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2016 regarding First Nations child welfare. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Blackstock referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's ruling last year finding the federal government racially discriminates against the country's indigenous children by providing "inequitable and insufficient" services.

The budget Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced Wednesday made no mention of the First Nations child and family services program.

"Nothing in there... to make sure this generation of First Nations children isn't unnecessarily removed from their families because of Canada's inequitable funding."
— Cindy Blackstock, indigenous children's advocate

While she supports budget allocations for housing, education and drinking water, Blackstock said "that might help some of those kids but not the kids in child welfare care and it won't stop the separation of those children from their families. That's going to continue to go on this country."

"Canada is saying it's above the law [and] it doesn't owe First Nations children equality in this country," she added. "I think it's a sad day for the nation."

first nations suicide ontario A girl plays by herself on a dusty road in Ontario's Pikangikum First Nations. (Getty Images)

The issue came up during question period on Thursday when NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called out the budget's inclusion of a stock options tax break when they are "refusing to give $155 million to finally end discrimination against First Nations children."

"Why protect rich CEOs instead of protecting First Nations children?" he asked.

Morneau dodged the question by saying the budget will create "great long-term jobs in sectors where Canada can be globally competitive." He added the government will address issue problems facing the country's most vulnerable "as we can."

An Indigenous Affairs spokesperson told CBC News that child welfare wasn't included because last year's budget allotted $635 million to be rolled out over five years. However, the funding has been so slow the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is holding hearings this week over the Trudeau government's non-compliance.

But even before the hearing started, The Globe and Mail reported the Department of Justice filed a motion claiming "the tribunal does not have the statutory authority to enforce its own orders" and that "they should generally operate under a presumption that their rulings will be executed with reasonable diligence or good faith."

Blackstock, who first filed the human rights complaint a decade ago, told APTN News she believes the government is only 30 per cent compliant and called on the Minister of Youth — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — to step in.

"There certainly can't be a more important issue for [Prime Minister Trudeau] than to end racial discrimination of its own government towards kids."
— Cindy Blackstock, indigenous children's advocate

"There certainly can't be a more important issue for the Minister of Youth than to end racial discrimination of its own government towards kids. He needs to take a leadership role in this and demand his government come into full compliance right now," she said."

Earlier this month, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett wrote a blog for HuffPost Canada acknowledging "too many indigenous children are taken into care, too many are harmed and too many have died." She said "the federal government needs to be accountable for the results."

She also argued "putting more money into the existing system simply isn't enough. The system is broken and needs to be overhauled."

A Globe and Mail investigation last spring found while while indigenous children under 14 represent seven per cent of all Canadian kids, they make up 48 per cent of foster children.

Rectifying the issue was one of the major calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their 2012 report called on social workers to consider the impact of residential schools. It also asked the federal government for "adequate resources" to keep Aboriginal families together "where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside."

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