06/02/2017 04:23 EDT | Updated 06/02/2017 05:22 EDT

Charlie Angus Blasts Feds On Legal Fees For Child Welfare

$707K spent to fight landmark human rights tribunal decision.

OTTAWA — The federal justice minister's office says it spent $707,000 in legal fees following a landmark human rights tribunal decision on First Nations child welfare.

Charlie Angus, an NDP MP and leadership candidate who obtained the information through a parliamentary request, questions why the legal tab was necessary.


"I am appalled that this government would spend so much money on fees to lawyers to fight justice for children," he said in an interview. "When is this disconnect with this government going to end?"

In January 2016, the tribunal found the federal government underfunded the delivery of child services on reserve and has prodded the government on its progress since then.

Last week, it chastised the government, saying it has not fully implemented Jordan's Principle — a policy designed to keep children from being caught in spending disputes between governments.

It went as far as to suggest the federal government's failure to fully implement Jordan's Principle may have contributed to the suicides of two teenagers in Wapekeka First Nation in northwestern Ontario earlier this year.

NDP MP Charlie Angus rises in the House of Commons on May 5, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

Joel Lightbound, parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Jane Philpott, said Friday the government is reviewing the most recent findings by the human rights tribunal.

"We will keep working with our First Nation partners, the provinces and territories to make sure that First Nation children have the care and services they need," he said.

Ottawa has proactively identified as many First Nations children in need as possible to get them the services they require, he added, saying 4,900 requests that have been approved since March 2017.

"I find it really disturbing that the government is playing fast and loose with the numbers when children are dying," Angus said, pointing to recent deaths of First Nations children in foster care Ontario.

'Children and young people are dying all the time'

Earlier this week, First Nations leaders travelled to Queen's Park to ask that the RCMP intervene in the investigations of two other deaths in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The body of 17-year-old Tammy Keeash from North Caribou Lake First Nation was found in the Neebing-McIntyre floodway on May 7, while the body of 14-year-old Josiah Begg, of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation was found less than two weeks later.

"Children and young people are dying all the time because they are being placed at risk, away from their families without the basic supports that other kids take for granted," Angus said. "That's at the heart of the human rights tribunal ruling."

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