Monday, November 23, 2009

An unprincipled stand on Jordan’s Principle

On December 12, 2007, the House of Commons voted unanimously in support of a private member’s bill that became known as Jordan’s Principle. Named after a young Aboriginal boy, Jordan River Anderson, who died after 2 1/2 years in hospital while the Manitoba and federal governments squabbled over who was responsible to pay for the services he needed in order to go home, the motion was intended to implement a child-first responsibility in jurisdictional issues. In other words, the welfare of the child was to be paramount; the bureaucrats could fight over who paid for what after the fact.

So two years later, how well have the Harper Conservatives done with implementing Jordan’s Principle? Not so well it seems.

On the CBC’s The Current this morning, Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society described how her organization has filed a human rights complaint in an attempt to force the government to implement Jordan’s Principle. The Harper Government’s reaction? According to Blackstock, it was to sic the lawyers on them.

Well, you know, they’ve fought it, right from the very beginning. They are challenging the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and in fact they’ve appointed lawyers from the Residential School Division to fight this case. They have spent literally thousands of taxpayer dollars to fight the case of equality instead of meeting the needs of children like Carolyn’s.

She goes on to say,

… these are services available to every other Canadian child. If this is where we are in this country, where our government thinks it's okay with any rationalization to racially discriminate against vulnerable children and their families just because of who they are, I personally think that we've hit a new moral low as a country and I think that we absolutely stand for better. That's why all those young men and women over the years have fought for those values of freedom and equality in such a dignified way, during the Second and First World Wars and in Korea and now we’re sending young men and women to do the same thing in Afghanistan, but we're not prepared to do it at home. I don't think that's right.

Listen to the broadcast here.

To be fair, the underlying funding issues that caused the Jordan Anderson tragedy (and others) were not created by the Harper government; it’s been problematic for generations. However it is the Harper Government that finally has a solution in hand and has had for almost 2 years, but instead of implementing the unanimous will of Parliament appears to be content to let the bureaucracy continue to fight Jordan’s Principle to the ongoing detriment of First Nations children living on reserves. It is truly unconscionable.

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