The federal government is no longer headed to court over last year’s landmark ruling on the delivery of First Nations child health care, an ongoing irritant in Ottawa’s relationship with First Nations communities.
Last year the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government discriminates against First Nations children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare services that exist elsewhere. It became known as Jordan’s Principle.
Since the ruling, the tribunal has issued multiple compliance orders to the federal government.
In June the Liberal government asked the Federal Court to seek “clarity” on two aspects of a compliance order issued by the quasi-judicial human rights tribunal.
They took issue with the fact the tribunal said that requests for health services for First Nations children must be processed within 48 hours. The federal government was also concerned about the tribunal stipulation that it cannot use case conferences, which allow groups of health care professionals to discuss treatment plans.
On Tuesday Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott announced an agreement has been reached between the government, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, and the Assembly of First Nations. She said the government would be withdrawing its application for judicial review.
The agreement says there is a legitimate role for clinical case conferencing and it can be used when “reasonably necessary” to understand a child’s clinical needs.
The parties also agreed that decisions for care made within a 48-hour window may not always not be in the child’s best interests.
“In a situation where irremediable harm is reasonably foreseeable, Canada will make all reasonable efforts to provide immediate crisis intervention supports until an extended response can be developed and implemented,” the agreement states.
“For non-urgent cases in which this information cannot be obtained within the 48-hour time frame, representatives from the government of Canada will work with the requester in order to obtain the needed information so that the determination can be made as close to the 48-hour time frame as possible.”
Philpott said the agreement had come out of increased collaboration. “Together, we proposed amendments to the May 2017 ruling that are in the best interests of First Nations children, and the tribunal agreed.”
Health services for First Nations people living on reserve are funded almost exclusively by the federal government.