Monday, August 31, 2009

I am a Witness, Will You Be One Too: Human Rights for Canada's First Nations Children & Youth

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations child welfare begins on September 14, 2009 in Ottawa, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada has launched a new campaign which needs your help.

Please spend two minutes supporting the "I am a witness" campaign. This campaign calls on caring Canadians and people from around the world to sign up to say they will witness the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which is reviewing a complaint that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children by providing them with less child welfare funding and benefits than other children receive. Being a witness means you agree to follow the case by either attending at the tribunal in person or following it through the media. After you have heard all the facts presented at the tribunal, you will be in a good position to make up your own mind about whether or not you feel the federal government is treating First Nations children fairly.

A year after the apology for residential schools, we want the Canadian government to know that caring Canadians and people from around the world are keeping watch over this generation of First Nations children.

Sign up to be a witness at www.fnwitness.ca

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Background to the Human Rights complaint:

On February 27, 2007, the Assembly of First Nations [AFN], a political organization representing all First Nations in Canada, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada [FNCFCS], a national non-profit organization providing services to First Nations child welfare organizations, took the historic step of holding Canada accountable before the Canadian Human Rights Commission for its current treatment of First Nations children. The complaint alleges that the Government of Canada had a longstanding pattern of providing less government funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than is provided to non-Aboriginal children.

The inequalities in First Nations child welfare funding are longstanding and well documented (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [RCAP], 1996; McDonald & Ladd, 2000; Loxley et. al., 2005; Amnesty International, 2006; Assembly of First Nations, 2007; Auditor General of Canada, 2008; Standing Committee on Public Accounts, 2009) as are the tragic consequences of First Nations children going into child welfare care due, in part, to the unavailability of equitable family support services (McDonald & Ladd, 2000; Blackstock and Trocme, 2005; Amnesty International, 2006; Clarke, 2007; Auditor General of Canada, 2008; National Council on Welfare, 2008). This inequity is further amplified for First Nations children by shortfalls in education funding, housing and publically funded voluntary sector supports (Blackstock, 2008).

In October of 2008, the Canadian Human Rights Commission ordered a tribunal to determine whether or not discrimination had occurred pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The tribunal is similar to a court process with all evidence taken under oath. The AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society will present the case supporting our allegation that the Canadian Government is discriminating against First Nations children and then the federal government will respond. The Tribunal will then decide if discrimination happened or not. If it did happen, then the Tribunal can order a remedy to the discrimination. The tribunal is open to the public.

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