On 26 February, 2007, the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada took the historic step of holding Canada accountable before the Human Rights Commission for its current treatment of over 160,000 First Nations children resident on reserve. The complaint alleges that the Government of Canada discriminates against First Nations children on reserve by providing them with less government child welfare funding, and therefore benefit, than other children in Canada. This article presents the facts leading up to the filing of the human rights case, the process after the complaint was filed, and the implications for First Nations children, individuals from minority groups, and the moral fabric of the country if the Government of Canada wins the case.
The government of Canada has attempted to have the case dismissed. Canada’s arguments prioritize legal technicalities over the central question of whether or not First Nations children are receiving lesser benefit because of federal government policies and practices. Canada’s pattern of behaviour seems out of step with its international human rights obligations to prioritize the safety, well being, and non-discrimination of children.
On 14 September, 2009, the historic Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare began. The I Am a Witness Campaign was launched to educate and engage the public by inviting individuals and organizations to follow the tribunal. The author concludes that if the Canadian government wins this case on legal technicalities, they effectively immunize themselves from ever being held accountable for discriminatory funding practices for public services; this will substantially erode the principles of democracy and equality that define the country.