Honourable colleagues, Bear Witness Day is marked every year on May 10 as the date observing Jordan’s Principle. It reminds us of the January 2016 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal stating that the Canadian government was discriminating against First Nations children by providing flawed and inequitable on-reserve welfare services and failing to properly implement Jordan’s Principle.
This is a child-first principle seeking to ensure that First Nations children have access to all public services in a way that is reflective of their distinct cultural needs, taking into account the historical disadvantage linked to colonization and without experiencing service denials, delays or disruptions.
The principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who was born with complex medical needs. He spent more than two years in hospital unnecessarily while Manitoba and the federal government argued over who should pay for his at-home care. Jordan died at age 5 without having spent one day in his family home.
Despite some progress, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued seven non-compliance orders to the Canadian government for its failure to fully implement Jordan’s Principle. First Nations children still experience refusals and delays in accessing public services available to other children, including education, health, child care, recreation, culture and language.
On behalf of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, I invite you to show your support for Jordan’s Principle by posting your photo online with a teddy bear or another stuffed animal on May 10 using the hashtag #BearWitnessDay. A teddy bear was Jordan’s favourite toy and it has come to symbolize the fight against the discrimination of First Nations children, youth and their families.