This post was originally published in July 2009 as part of International Blog Against Racism Week
One of the things that we talk about here, on occasion, is how lucky we are that Don is a white man with a disability living in Canada. Things become more complicated in my post-racial utopia of a country when someone of a different race is born with a disability.
Take, for example, the case of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Jordan was born with “complex health needs” (this is code for Carey Fineman Ziter Syndrome, a rare muscular disorder) and spent the first two years of his life in hospital. At that point, his doctors agreed that he could go home and live with his family, although he would need continuing care.
If Jordan hadn’t been First Nations, he would have gone home, and his care would have been paid for by the provincial government as part of his health care costs. However, as a First Nations child, the cost of Jordan’s care became an argument between the provincial and federal government. Neither wanted to pay for it, so Jordan stayed in hospital.
He died at age 5, having never been home.
First Nations advocates came together and wrote Jordan’s Principle:
Under this principle, where a jurisdictional dispute arises between two government parties (provincial/territorial or federal) or between two departments or ministries of the same government, regarding payment for services for a Status Indian child which are otherwise available to other Canadian children, the government or ministry/department of first contact must pay for the services without delay or disruption. The paying government party can then refer the matter to jurisdictional dispute mechanisms. In this way, the needs of the child get met first while still allowing for the jurisdictional dispute to be resolved.
This was adopted unanimously by the Canadian Government in December, 2007.
Special Needs Kids May Be Forced Into Foster Care (May, 2008):
Government infighting has families in a northern Manitoba community in anguish about how to best care for their children.
The Norway House Cree Nation has told the families of children with special needs that they may be forced to give up their children because the First Nation can no longer pay for their care, and federal and provincial governments can’t agree on who should pay.
Charlene Ducharme works with the Kinosao Sipi Minisowin Agency, a social agency on the reserve, and said she has yet to see Jordan’s Principle in action. She said the children of Norway House deserve the same care that other Manitoba children get.
“Our premier said Manitoba would be the first one to implement Jordan’s Principle… we’re still waiting.”
Late in 2008, the Manitoba Government also adopted Jordan’s Principle.
However, in reality, very little has changed. According to a UNICEF report issued this year, in honour of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children in Canada still suffer in comparison to other children:
1 in 4 First Nations children lives in poverty compared to 1 in 9 Canadian children on average.
In cities of more than 100,000 people, approximately 50 per cent of Aboriginal children under the age of 15 live in low-income housing, compared to 21 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.
In contrast to the national infant mortality rate of 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the rate is 8 per 1, 000 among First Nations and 16 per 1,000 in Nunavut (where 85 per cent of the population is Inuit).
Only 63 per cent of First Nations children on selected reserves accessed a doctor in 2001; 46 per cent of Inuit children and 77 per cent Métis children did so, compared to 85 per cent of Canadian children on average.
Between 33 and 45 per cent of Inuit, Métis and First Nations children (on and off reserve) report chronic illness.
On-reserve First Nations child immunization rates are 20 per cent lower than in the general population, leading to higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases.
38: The percentage of deaths attributable to suicide for First Nations youth aged 10 to 19. In 1999, the suicide rate among First Nations was 2.1 times higher than the overall Canadian rate. The rate of suicide for Inuit is 11 times higher than the overall rate of the Canadian population.
[Source] [Report Summary, WARNING: PDF]
Canada’s ranking on the Human Development Index, which is used by the United Nations to measure a country’s achievement in health, knowledge, and a decent standard of living is third. Evaluating the living conditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people alone, their ranking is 68th.
My country prides itself on being “better” than the U.S. on issues of race.
Jordan died 800 km from home because he was First Nations. First Nations children in my country are not getting the care they need, the care available to other children, because they are First Nations.
This is not an improvement.