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Canada violating native rights by underfunding child-welfare services: AFN

[JURIST] The Canadian government has violated native Canadian children's human rights by underfunding child-welfare services for native peoples, according to the Canadian Assembly of First Nations (AFN) [advocacy website]. The group plans to file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission this month against the federal government, alleging that the government has not adequately funded welfare programs, forcing 27,000 aboriginal children to remain in foster homes. Depending on the government's reaction, AFN may consider filing a class-action suit on behalf of native children alleging violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text].

AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine [AFN profile] has said that the filing is the result of failed attempts for progress through dialogue with a disinterested government. Fontaine told the Globe & Mail that "we've always believed that it's better to negotiate appropriate arrangements. But when we discover an unresponsive government, as we have in this case, then we have to take action." The Canadian Human Rights Commission [official website] does not have the power to compel the federal government to allocate additional funds, but the AFN expects that a ruling from the Commission that the government is discriminating against aboriginals by underfunding programs for natives will persuade the federal government to increase funds.

Children on native reserves in Canada are in extremely deep poverty. The proportion of aboriginal children in foster care is 20 times the number of non-aboriginal children in foster care. First Nations child-welfare agencies also receive 22 percent less in government funds than do non-aboriginal agencies. According to an AFN Fact Sheet, native Canadian living conditions rank among those of Third World countries with unemployment rates nearly double that of their non-native counterparts. Despite this, AFN reports that First Nations receive less than half as much in federal services as non-native Canadians. The Globe & Mail has more.

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