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Shrug: What's a few more years of discrimination? It seems a curious misstep for the Liberal government, so adroit at building its brand as enlightened, fair and just, to simply fail to address the serious—and proven— discrimination in child welfare funding on reserve. Why didn’t they just get that monkey off their backs in the federal budget March 22? Why didn’t they just choose to get out from underneath the political burden of it, an ugly stain that’s going to dog Trudeau’s record for at least three years to come? It makes no sense. Something is missing from this equation. It seems so counter-intuitive to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal brand. He is a feminist, choosing a gender-equal Cabinet “because it’s 2015,” sitting on international panels to espouse the feminist male. He’s a compassionate man, wrapping Canada’s loving arms around 25,000 Syrian refugees, telling the first arrivals “You’re safe now” as he greeted them at the airport. But when it comes to the most vulnerable of First Nations children, Trudeau extends his hand only in the most tentative way. In the face of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision in January, which ruled that Canada is contributing to the suffering of children in care on reserve by failing to supply equitable funding as provided to children in care off-reserve, the Trudeau’s government has chosen to continue its discrimination forward into the future. Boo and hiss. The mask has fallen from this selfie-posing, globe-trotting, Camelot in Canada-making family man. Trudeau is proving a fraud. The smoke that this government has been blowing is starting to clear. The one thing above all others that Canada should have got right in this budget is its commitment to children in care. Instead it budgets $71 million immediately, which is $38 million less than what the Conservative government estimated was the funding shortfall in child welfare funding in 2012, which was a gross underestimation of the actual shortfall four years ago. Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, who brought the human rights challenge against the government, estimates that immediate relief should have been in the area of $200 million in the first year of the budget. The reality in these coming years, then, is that this government, the Trudeau government, believes First Nations children on reserve are less than other children,

worthy of less, at least until the back end of the Liberal’s first mandate and into a possible second, four and five years away. Blackstock is a fearless and persistent child champion, much-adored and a hero to many in the First Nations community. She could have been a powerful ally to this government in First Nations circles, had the discrimination been addressed, but instead the Trudeau Liberals ensures her as a certain foe. But this is what’s making this situation worse. Canada has found an enabler: The AFN, which fought the child welfare battle alongside Blackstock. Et tu, Brute? On Jan. 26, with the announcement of the human rights win on child welfare, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde praised Blackstock for her dedication to “achieving equity for our kids”. In a press statement he promised that the AFN would be “relentless in our efforts to ensure [kids] have every opportunity to justice, fairness and success." He called for “immediate relief” in funding for First Nations children and families. He told reporters that “in this great country there is no room for discrimination and racism.” “When that gap closes, Canada wins as a country,” he said. “We’ll be watching to ensure that that happens. All of Canada will be watching.” Well, on March 22, Bellegarde apparently forgot his call for immediate relief, forgot his commitment to justice and fairness, and is now pledging that the current and ongoing discrimination that Canada’s future prosperity is being built upon is OK for now. Bellegarde says the immediate budget allocation that continues underfunding for kids in care on reserve for years is but a starting point, a first step, from which to lobby. “That’s the position we’re going to take forward: work with what’s there now, but build upon it to make sure the discriminatory funding practises do end,” he said. It’s hard not to appreciate Bellegarde’s relief to see light after a long, hard winter of dark days with $8.4 billion in funding promised for Indigenous people over five years. But, in this case, the principled response to ongoing discrimination of children in care would be a forceful and stern ‘No. This is unacceptable.’ But, meh. Apparently there is room for discrimination and racism in Canada, and First Nations leadership is supporting it. Windspeaker

[ rants and raves ]

News Briefs

What some evacuees from Fort McMurray had to experience on their way out of the city on May 3, 2016. Photo: Twitter

Wildfires threaten several neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray the morning of May 2, 2016. Photo: Twitter

Do you have a rant or a rave? Criticism or praise? E-mail us at: letters@ammsa.com twitter: @windspeakernews facebook: /windspeakernews May II 2016

Fort McKay First Nation opens lodges to fire evacuaees Fort McKay First Nation opened three of its work camp lodges to the Fort McMurray evacuees on Tuesday. The entire Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo was evacuated late Tuesday afternoon. Initially, residents were only able to travel north on Highway 63. Late last night, Rose Mueller, spokeswoman for the Fort McKay First Nation, said two of their three work camp lodges were full. A third lodge, Creeburn Lake Lodge, was to open at 11 p.m. last night. “We are doing our best to accommodate as much as we possible can,” Mueller said. ”Our lodges have been working beyond their capacity. It’s a sad situation and we just want to make sure people are safe and the families are together.” Up to 29,000 have been evacuated from the region – the largest evacuation due to wildfires in Alberta's history. Red Cross has set up a family reunification line at: 1-888350-6070

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Windspeaker May 2016 vol-34-no-4full