Funding for Indigenous Children

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to rise the day after the House voted to support an NDP motion that calls on the government to recognize and remediate the historical discrimination faced by indigenous children across Canada. I would like to thank the government for finally acknowledging that it is inexcusable to short-change kids, and I hope it will begin to work with all its partners to address the huge gap in services that exists for first nations children.

    There are now three orders of compliance issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Will the government now stop fighting families in court and start working with experts and representatives from indigenous communities to get the help where it is needed as soon as possible?

    During the debate on the motion, the member for Labrador was very indignant about this issue and accused the NDP of pulling numbers out of thin air. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the hon. member, and by extension the government, that the numbers were not pulled out of thin air, but actually arrived at through the very numbers provided by the government itself. The same numbers the member disputed were given by Cindy Blackstock to the government six months ago. It did not dispute the numbers until it was asked to spend the money on kids on the ground.

    Ms. Blackstock also pointed out that there are a stack of reports, dating over the last 50 years that the government can draw on to implement some much needed services right away. However, the government preferred to appoint its own consultant, also called a special representative, to repeat much of the work that has already been done, instead of implementing solutions that it already has.

    In my home province of Saskatchewan, there have been six youth suicides in the last four weeks. These young people and their families need support and services in their communities now.

    Last week, the NDP held a press conference in Saskatoon to call on the government to end the Band-Aid approach and to turn our culture of deniability into a culture of accountability that puts kids first. Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac la Ronge First Nation and FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron have called for all levels of government with overlapping jurisdictions to “work together to develop a plan of action to prevent future tragedies of this kind among aboriginal youth”.

    Instead of stable funding for social workers and support programs in communities, the government has cut 25% of front-line workers in recent years. Then, when there is a crisis of suicides by young people, emergency workers are flown in for a few weeks, but these workers cannot stay, and the cycle begins again.

    The same goes for communities where there is no medical centre. Patients and at-risk youth have to be flown out of their communities, instead of being helped and treated at home, close to their families.

    What the tribunal has ordered is an immediate remediation of this situation. Indigenous kids are being underfunded, and this has to stop. It is a national shame that today, in 2016, there are as many children in care as during the residential school era. Why is this happening? It is because there are not enough support services to allow families to stay together through a crisis.

    The first 2,000 days of a child's life is when the most critical phases of development take place. What happens in the first 2,000 days can have a lasting effect, for better or worse. It is unconscionable for any government to postpone help when it is so urgently needed.

    How is it acceptable to postpone 54% of the announced funding until the last year before an election, or the year after the next election? Will the government revise its planned five-year roll-out of the funding it has announced, to get funds to where they are needed right away, instead of in another four years? Indigenous children cannot wait.