Tribunal Issues Significant Decision in First Nations Child Welfare

Today, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (“the Tribunal”) issued a significant decision regarding First Nations child welfare. This decision contains a series of groundbreaking orders against Canada, requiring Canada to fund the actual cost of child welfare services going forward, and retroactive to the Tribunal’s original finding of discrimination, made on January 26, 2016.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (“NAN”) is a party to these proceedings, since its intervention was granted in May 2016. Today, NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler welcomed the Tribunal’s ruling. “Canada’s attempted justification for its inaction in the wake of a 2016 finding of discrimination by the Human Rights Tribunal has been flatly rejected as the Panel recognized that Canada’s ‘business as usual’ approach was a conscious choice to perpetuate discrimination. This is a huge win for our children,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler during an assembly of NAN Chiefs in Thunder Bay this week. “The Tribunal has broken new ground in raising the bar for how Canada addresses its landmark judgement in 2016. The good news is that Canada is responding to this challenge and is working in collaboration with NAN, the Caring Society, COO and the Assembly of First Nations and others to develop solutions.”

Deputy Grand Chief Achneepineskum, whose portfolio includes Child Welfare, also commented on the Tribunal’s ruling. “The importance of this ruling is its recognition that children come first and that bureaucratic inaction, no matter how well intentioned, can perpetuate discrimination,” said Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. “The Tribunal has effectively created a cost of inaction and has ordered Canada to compensate parties involved dating back to its ruling in 2016. NAN is also grateful for the Tribunal’s acknowledgment of the important work that is being done, in collaboration with Canada, to further the development of a Remoteness Quotient for the North as well as new programs for youth suicide prevention.”

Acting as legal counsel for NAN are Julian Falconer, Akosua Matthews and Anthony Morgan of Falconers LLP.


On January 26, 2016, the Tribunal issued a landmark decision, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada. The 2016, decision found that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is racially discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children by not providing enough funding for child and family services on reserves. The Tribunal divided the proceedings into three phases of relief: immediate, medium and long-term. The Tribunal has indicated that today’s February 1, 2018, decision concludes the immediate relief phase of the proceedings.

In the News

CHRT Decision a Huge Win for Children     NAN Press Release, February 1, 2018

Ottawa to increase funding for First Nations child welfare services    CBC, February 2, 2018

It’s a good day for kids – Cindy Blackstock    CFNR, February 1, 2018

Ottawa’s ‘colonial views’ harmed Indigenous children, says human rights panel National Observer, February 1, 2018

NAN Grand Chief – Business as Usual Approach Conscious Choice to Perpetuate Discrimination    Netnewsledger, February 1, 2018

2018 CHRT 4   First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

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