Summary: Jordan’s Principle was developed in response to the death of Jordan River Anderson. He died in 2005 at five years old. In his short life, he was eligible for home-care, but the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who was financially responsible, meaning he spent his entire life in hospital.

Jordan’s Principle is a child-first approach with the intention of providing First Nations children, both on and off-reserve, the same access to government health and social services that are available to all other non-Indigenous children. It requires that the first level of government that a First Nation citizen contacts is responsible to provide that service.

The goal is to prevent First Nations children from being denied essential public services and to prevent delays in receiving them. By utilizing a child-first approach, jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children should not affect their access to treatment. The AFN has summarized the key points to Jordan’s Principle in the following terms:

Because responsibility for First Nations children’s services is often shared among federal, provincial/ territorial and First Nations governments, accessing certain services can be challenging. Funding disputes between federal and provincial governments, or between federal departments, are not uncommon, and can result in delays that unfairly affect children’s health and well-being. Jordan’s Principle requires the government of first contact to provide the service, and then resolve the funding issue. As such, Jordan’s Principle is a mechanism to help ensure children’s human, constitutional, and treaty rights. (source)

Background: Jordan River Anderson was a First Nations child from the Norway Cree House Nation in Manitoba. He suffered from a rare and complex muscular disorder. After spending the first two years of his life in hospital, doctors agreed he could return home. The federal and provincial government disputed over the responsibility of in-home care. The end result was Jordan was unable to return home and lived in hospital until his death in 2005 at age 5.

In 2007 the House of Commons adopted a private member’s motion that said,

“The government should immediately adopt a child-first principle, based on Jordan’s Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.” (source)

In 2013 a precedent-setting case Pictou Landing Band Council and Maurina Beadle v. Attorney General of Canada, 2013 FC 342 went before the Federal Court of Canada. Jeremy Meawasige was a young adult living at Pictou Landing First Nation. He had multiple disabilities and required extensive in home care. His home care had been provided by his mother, Maurina Beadle, until she suffered a stroke and was unable to provide Jeremy’s full-time care.

Pictou Landing First Nation had been supplementing the care his family was able to provide, using the First Nation’s health care funding from the Federal government. The First Nation requested reimbursement of expenses from the federal government on the basis that Jeremy would be entitled to this level of care if he lived off-reserve, and that Jordan’s Principle applied. The request was denied. The Federal government claimed that Jeremy would not have been entitled to that level of care from the province of Nova Scotia had he lived off-reserve.

Both the Federal and Provincial government stated there was a funding cap set at a maximum of $2200.00/month, which prevented them from providing additional funding. Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society made a public statement about this particular situation and others like it.

“It’s not about giving First Nations children more services than other kids, it’s about giving them the same thing.” source

The court ruled that Jordan’s Principle was applicable and Pictou Landing First Nation should be reimbursed for its costs,  as they were incurred to provide a normative standard of care, comparable to the level of care non-Indigenous people received .

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made implementing the Jordan Principle Call to Action number 3.

“We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle.”

In May of 2017 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) issued its latest ruling on the Jordan’s Principle. It ordered the Federal government to immediately implement the full meaning and scope and outlined the steps necessary to do so.

Impacts: Implementation of the full scope of the Jordan Principle would address a number of current issues, both on and off reserve. By redefining the Jordan’s Principle and outlining clear monitoring requirements the latest CHRT ruling should mitigate service delivery gaps and help achieve the intended results of the original principle.

Chiefs in Assembly Resolution 28/16 – (Support for First Nations Young People With Disabilities) concluded that young people and their families in First Nations communities faced multiple barriers when trying to access adequate resources. The need for financial supports was identified.

The Ontario Regional Chief was designated to advocate on behalf of First Nations young people with disabilities. The resolution called on the federal and provincial governments to immediately identify financial resources to address the needs of young people with disabilities in First Nations communities.