Jordan’s Principle is the federal government’s answer to disagreements about who should fund care of Indigenous children. The principle is: instead of disagreeing about which government should pay for the service, the service is provided and paid for by the government that is approached first. Once the child’s health or service is taken care of, the two levels of government can work out if the proper government paid for the service, or if one government should be reimbursed by the other. The goal is that Indigenous children can access services at the same standard as non-Indigenous children without delay.
Where did the principle come from?
The principle was announced as a motion in Parliament by NDP member Jean Crowder, and was unanimously agreed upon by the House of Commons in December 2007. However, the government’s recognition of the principle only happened after the tragic story of the principle’s namesake, Jordan River Anderson.
Jordan was a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. He was born with complicated medical needs that could not be treated on-reserve. He stayed in the hospital as a young child, but after two years, he was approved by doctors to move to a home with required home-care. However, the provincial and federal governments could not agree who would foot the bill, and he remained in hospital care until the end of his life.
Two years later, he died still in hospital at the age of 5. He never got the chance to live in a home because the government could not decide who would pay for his home-care. He waited, his family waited, and his community waited, and the government could not provide an answer until he had tragically already passed away. His story, and the countless other stories like his, forced the government to accept that they needed to agree to Jordan’s Principle.
What are the ongoing problems with the principle in practice?
There is still a question as to whether Jordan’s Principle is actually being followed, with strong arguments for the “no” side. The TRC made one of their Calls to Action that the government “fully” implement Jordan’s Principle.
Jordan’s Principle has recently been called a “failure” by Professor Leroy Bear from the University of Lethbridge. The principle sounds like a good idea: putting the child first by streamlining the funding process so that jurisdiction problems can be solved without a child’s care on the line. However, Professor Bear argues the principle has not been able to overcome the ongoing jurisdictional problems.
A 2016 documentary by Alanis Obomsawin, We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice, argues that the federal government has resisted applying Jordan's Principle -- to the extent that the $11-million fund set aside to cover its costs was never used. As well, in September of 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada failed to properly implement Jordan’s Principle, calling Canada’s actions “unlawful and discriminatory”, issuing three compliance orders.
Although putting the child first is a logical, seemingly straightforward, and imperative step to take for the protection, well-being and equality of Indigenous children, the government has failed to take that step. If even one Indigenous child is delayed or denied healthcare treatment because of bureaucracy and ongoing red tape, the principle is not being followed, and the government is, quite simply, not doing its job. Tomorrow, we will discuss a recent case in which the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal declared that the federal government has failed to provide adequate care to First Nations children under Jordan’s Principle.
Until next time,
Team ReconciliAction YEG
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 First Nations Child & Caring Society of Canada, “Jordan’s Principle”, online: <fncaringsociety.com/jordans-principle>.
 First Nations Child & Caring Society of Canada, “Motion no. 296 in support of Jordan’s Principle”, online: <https://fncaringsociety.com/jordans-principle/motion296>.
 Supra, note 1.
 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (Winnipeg: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada), 2015 at 1.
 Chris Stewart, “Professor at Alberta conference says Jordan’s Principle ‘a failure’”, APTN National News (19 October 2017), online: <aptnnews.ca/2017/10/19/professor-at-alberta-conference-says-jordans-principle-a-failure/>.
 Kate Taylor, “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice exposes Canada’s barriers to reconciliation”, Globe and Mail (21 October 2016), online: <www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/film-reviews/we-cant-make-the-same-mistake-twice-exposes-canadas-barriers-to-reconciliation/article32459440/>.
 Supra, note 8.
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