03/23/2016 12:49 EDT | Updated 03/24/2017 05:12 EDT

Federal Budget 2016: Grits Blasted For Underfunding Of First Nations Child Welfare

Critics say the budget fell far short of expectations.

OTTAWA — Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says the federal government is determined to overhaul the First Nations child welfare system, even though critics say the budget fell far short of meeting expectations.

Bennett says additional capacity is needed so First Nations can control child welfare services.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett stands in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)

Cindy Blackstock, a social worker who spent nine years fighting the government on the underfunding of reserve care, criticizes the Liberals for failing to spend $200 million this year.

In the legal fight, Blackstock and the Assembly of First Nations argued that the federal government failed to provide First Nations children with the same level of welfare services that exist elsewhere, contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

At the end of January, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in their favour and the government decided not to appeal.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde looks on as First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Caring Society Executive Director Cindy Blackstock speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, on Jan. 26, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Blackstock says $71 million in government funding for these services this year does not meet the legal obligation outlined by the tribunal.

The government plans to invest $634.8 million in child and family services over five years and says the goal is to protect children from harm, rather than intervening after a crisis.

Funding for First Nations issues was a central theme of the Liberal's first budget this week, which contained $8.4 billion in spending commitments for education, water, housing and other services.


Photo gallery Federal Budget 2016 Highlights See Gallery