We witnessed the unseemly sight this week of Parliament voting unanimously to force Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to obey an order by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It was a low point in the administration of the First Nations file, but it also was very revealing of a federal department that considers it a law unto itself.
On the same day media reported that INAC had lapsed more than $900 million that had been allocated to be spent on First Nations.
The motion, moved by New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, called on the Liberal government to comply with all the orders made by the human rights tribunal, which had ruled that Ottawa was practising racial discrimination by underfunding child welfare programs. The motion also ordered INAC to “immediately invest” $155 million in child welfare and develop a financial plan for future years.
The tribunal’s ruling came after a nine-year battle with Indigenous Affairs. Angus’s motion also included support for Jordan’s Principle, which states that no child should suffer delays in treatment because of jurisdictional disputes between the federal and provincial governments.
The Liberals at first had opposed the motion, but did an about-face after a letter by Senator Murray Sinclair came to light. Sinclair urged the Liberals to support the motion, stating that it dovetailed with the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation he had chaired, and which the Liberals had previously supported.
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