Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today about Jordan's principle. I would like to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing the motion before the House. It seems very important under the circumstances.
I will start by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the motion of my NDP colleague in principle. So, I will rise to share my views. For those listening who do not understand what we are talking about, I will say that Jordan's principle is one of the greatest examples of discrimination against First Nations peoples on reserves.
I have been researching Jordan's principle in preparation for my speech in this House, because I knew this motion would be put forward. I consulted the Canadian Medical Association, which addressed the issue in its August 2007 editorial. This was not 100 years ago, but August 2007. The title of the article can be found on the web site of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, or CMAJ. There is a very interesting article, dated August 14, 2007, called “Jordan's Principle, governments' paralysis”.
I will not repeat what my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan said about the facts of this case, but the facts are that young Jordan of the Norway House Cree Nation lived on a reserve in northern Manitoba and was unable to get proper care because the provincial, municipal and other governments passed the buck back and forth.
This is what the editorial says. I will quote directly from that text to avoid any ambiguity.
Canada is a party to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”.
The treaty does not say, “may be a primary consideration” but “shall be a primary consideration”.
I will continue reading:
Jordan’s interests fell a distant second; intergovernmental squabbling over the duty to pay came first. Canada contravened this treaty. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination. Many of the services Jordan needed would be paid for without question for a white Manitoban, or off-reserve Aboriginal resident. It was Jordan’s living on-reserve that caused the bureaucracy to choke. That is discrimination pure and simple.
Canada’s constitution recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Supreme Court in 1984 declared “the Government has the responsibility to act in a fiduciary capacity with respect to aboriginal peoples,” in a relationship that “is trust-like, rather than adversarial”. One wonders how this obligation was met by the bureaucrats who allowed Jordan to live and then die in the Winnipeg hospital far from his loved ones, while the adversarial turf war raged.
We endorse putting the medical needs of First Nations’ children first. This seems rather evident to me, yet it also seems extremely complicated.
I have here in my hands a fine document produced by our fine government. It is a 2007 publication entitled “Are We Doing Enough?” It is a status report on Canadian public policy and child and youth health, published by the Canadian Pediatric Society. This is the 2007 report. Page 24 of this document—and I did not write it—talks about Jordan's principle. It repeats what I just said about how this child was left to die.
I read that none of the provinces and territories is doing enough and they all have a negative side, except Nova Scotia. Here is what is said about British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba—where Jordan's case originated, not all that long ago—Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. None of those provinces and territories has introduced a child-first policy to resolving jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children and youth.
Today, in 2007, another case similar to Jordan's could easily arise and we would be in the same situation as the one that left poor Jordan abandoned, when municipal, provincial and federal bureaucrats were too busy bickering amongst themselves.
The Bloc Québécois' position is this: we agree that we must take into account what is going on. Take, for example, Quebec's Youth Protection Act, which says that when dealing with children, authorities must take into account a number of factors and considerations, including the characteristics of aboriginal communities. This shows how important it is for governments to hold consultations with first nations. We must do everything in our power to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again.
In 1986, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault Commission, submitted a report. Nothing has happened. Nobody has done anything. The issue is a simple one. Who should pay? It is always about money. Starting now, we should stop asking that question. Instead, we should be asking whether a child needs services. We can worry about the bill later. That is what we have to do. Bureaucrats have to take a totally different approach and start by admitting that there are no federal-provincial agreements. We have to make children in aboriginal communities our priority. We can fight over the bill later. The point is that this kind of thing should not be happening in 2007.
I would take things even farther than that. I would invite my colleagues in the House to see Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie's latest film, Le peuple invisible. It is now 2007 and we still have serious problems. We could end up with another Jordan case if we do not take this initiative seriously. I think we should proceed with the motion introduced by my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.