The Canadian government has defined the capabilities of First Nation parents in terms of “neglect.” It is because of this term that many children are taken away. However, the term neglect receives its meaning from concepts of poverty, poor housing, and substance misuse which is ultimately correlated to the intergenerational trauma of residential schools that many First Nation parents continue to suffer from. It is the differences in ways of life that led the federal government to treat the Indigenous children living on-reserve and in the Yukon with racial adversity; a genocide spanning over a 150 years through a merciless system described as residential schools; schools replete with rape, deaths (without reporting names of the deceased), and institutionalized child neglect. It was and continues to be genocide through schooling, constructed after Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, described educated Indigenous children living with his or her parents as "...simply a savage who can read and write" (TRC, 2015, p.2). The closure of the merciless schooling system, "commenced in earnest in 1970, [and] was accompanied by a significant increase in the number of [Indigenous] children [taken] into care by child-welfare agencies" (TRC, 2015, p. 69). By 2010, approximately 27,000 Indigenous children were not in their parents' or grandparent’s hands and homes (AFN, 2013). Many of the children were placed with non-Indigenous families. A major cause for this was due to significant underfunding by the Canadian federal government. As Dr. Cindy Blackstock observed, an Indigenous child living on reserve in Canada means receiving "less government funding for statutory child welfare services than other children even though there are more First Nations children in child welfare care now than at the height of residential school operations" (Blackstock, 2009, p.89). It has always been harder for the Indigenous peoples to receive the most basic treatment as human beings in Canada and the Indigenous child is no exception to this oppressive, unwritten rule. Dr. Blackstock testified to these events at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. This trial brought light to the fact that neglect for First Nations children is a result of a country who has neglected the First Nations children by discriminating in funding amounts to First Nations agencies and communities. The tribunal was filed because Dr. Cindy Blackstock and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) saw a human right violation which was First Nation children receiving exponentially less welfare funding than the rest of Canada. In 2016, the Tribunal ruled in favour of First Nation children on reserve, concluding that there was discriminatory funding as between such children and children off reserve. Moreover, the adverse impacts of significantly less funding for Indigenous children on reserve arose "only because of their race and/or national or ethnic origin. Furthermore, these adverse impacts perpetuate the historical disadvantage and trauma suffered by Aboriginal people, in particular as a result of the Residential Schools system” (First Nations, 2016, p.162). History for the Indigenous community in Canada has been similar to a tornado, never stopping, always swirling and bringing new adversities in its path. Despite such apparent injustice through demonstrative evidence, time and time again Canada has yet to see with its heart rather than through its eyes; Canadians only see differences amongst each other, never unity or commonality. As a non-Indigenous youth I have understood this ruling as a chance for Canada to make amends, to make a difference, and to allow reconciliation to begin. It is through the winning decision of this Human Rights Tribunal that the first step of reconciliation has been taken, and that this government has had no choice but through the …
- Assembly of First Nation. (2013). Fact Sheet: Child Welfare. Retrieved from http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/13-02-23_fact_sheet_-_child_welfare_updated_fe.pdf
- Blackstock, C. (2009). After the Residential School Apology: Why All Canadians Should Caree about a Racial Equality Case Before the Canadian Human Rights Commission. First Peoples Child & Family Review 4(1), pp 89.
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Assembly of First Nations and Canadian Human Rights Commission v. Attorney General of Canada. (2016). 2016 CHRT 2, T1340/7008. Retrieved from https://fncaringsociety.com/sites/default/files/Caring%20Society%20submissions%20remedy.pdf
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation. Retrieved from http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf