OTTAWA — The Liberal government won't go to court over health care services for First Nations children after reaching an agreement with the parties in a case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said Thursday that changes have been made to address two aspects of a May tribunal finding the government wanted to address in Federal Court.
"I really hope today's decision will demonstrate to all the parties involved ... it is in the best interests of children in this country, in this case First Nations children, if we find a way to collaborate," Philpott said speaking outside of the House of Commons.
In June, the Liberal government announced it was going to court to quash parts of a compliance order issued last spring by the quasi-judicial human rights tribunal.
Philpott: Government 'fully committed' to Joran's Principle
Specifically, Ottawa took issue with the fact the tribunal wanted requests for health services for First Nations children processed in 12 to 48 hours. It was also concerned about the tribunal stipulation it could not cannot use case conferences.
An agreement has now been reached between the government, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations saying there is a legitimate role for clinical case conferencing — discussions related to the delivery of services involving professionals.
It says the tool may be used when "reasonably necessary" to understand a First Nation's child's clinical needs so professionals can access more information on a case.
"This is a process by which, perhaps, a doctor, a physiotherapist, a social worker and a family member will get together and decide what's ... in the best interests of children," Philpott said.
The agreement also says decisions on service delivery made within a 48-hour window may not always not be in the child's best interests.
"In a situation where irremediable harm is reasonably foreseeable, Canada will make all reasonable efforts to provide immediate crisis intervention supports until an extended response can be developed and implemented," the agreement states.
"For non-urgent cases in which this information cannot be obtained within the 48-hour time frame, representatives from the government of Canada will work with the requester in order to obtain the needed information so that the determination can be made as close to the 48-hour time frame as possible."
Philpott said Thursday that more than 24,000 services have been approved for First Nations children under Jordan's Principle — a policy named after a First Nations boy who died while bureaucracies squabbled over financial jurisdiction — including mental health supports and medical equipment.
The government is committed to implementing the policy and complying with orders put forward by the tribunal, Philpott added.