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March 19, 2016

A good day for Aboriginal children

Reuel S. Amdur

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Whatever might be said in criticism of the Trudeau government, sunny days appear to be dawning over the Aboriginal file.

Consider the reaction of the Liberal government to the decision handed down by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on January 27.  Compare that to the Harper government’s behavior while the hearings were underway. 

Government statistics themselves showed underfunding in comparison with provincial spending of between 22 and 34 per cent.

Liberal officials have actually welcomed the decision against the government and are pledging to do better. 

Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett promised to rely more on means other than foster care for Aboriginal children.  Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and former Assembly of First Nations regional chief in British Columbia, welcomed the Tribunal’s decision.  “This is a good day.”

The shortfall in funding included not only issues of custody, abuse, and neglect.  Also affected were services for children with special needs.  How thoroughly and fully the Trudeau government is prepared to respond to the Tribunal’s decision remains to be seen.  At least, the government appears to be in the right frame of mind.

Compare this reaction to how the Harper dealt with the issue. 

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, brought the case to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007.  The Tories used every trick in the book in an effort to delay, if not to get the case thrown out.

As for Blackstock, the Harper government was out to get her.  In an effort to find information to discredit her, it spied on her.  Rather than asking her for copies of her speeches, the government wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars sending people to her public speaking engagements.  Government snoops looked into her Twitter and Facebook accounts. 

They investigated her Indian status records and those of her extended family.  Her bags were thoroughly examined in customs when she returned from overseas.  Her tax records were subjected to extreme auditing. 

When she tried to attend meetings between government officials and First Nations officials, she was barred.  This is a woman with expertise in child welfare.  She has a doctorate and is a professor of social work at the University of Alberta.  Her expertise was not wanted by the government at such sessions. 

In the area of child welfare on reserves, as in so many policy arenas, Stephen Harper and his government displayed a pattern of callous disregard for human values and a petty pursuit of those with whom they disagreed. 

The Harper era constitutes a black page in Canadian history.

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