Question Period: Support for Indigenous Children

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Senator Gold, as you know, Jordan’s Principle requires governments to ensure that First Nations children can, without discrimination or hesitancy, be on the same level as other Canadians and access the same products, services and supports they need when they need them. The aim is to meet the needs of First Nations children, regardless of whether it is for speech therapy, educational support, medical equipment, mental health service and many more. The aim is to meet the needs of these children regardless of their position or the region in which they live.

Although the federal government has made important improvements in the last 15 years, First Nations children continue to experience gaps, delays and denials. According to Indigenous Services Canada, denial rates on applications for funding and service access for First Nations children varied drastically across the country during the pandemic. In 2021, the government denied just over 70% of all group requests from British Columbia, along with nearly 55% from Alberta. In Manitoba and Quebec, meanwhile, it denied only about 5%.

What is the government doing to ensure Jordan’s Principle is upheld across Canada, regardless of regional differences?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. Congratulations to you and our colleagues for a wonderful event this morning on Bear Witness Day, which I was privileged to attend.

This is an important issue. Government has, as you underlined, made enormous efforts in this area, and that includes giving First Nations communities control over the provision of these services.

That said, the statistics to which you referred are preoccupying. I will have to make some inquiries, and I will certainly report back as soon as I can.

Senator Klyne: I look forward to the additional information.

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