Conference Highlights from Learning, and Growing: Imagining the Future of Jordan’s Principle

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Lindsay Wolfson

Lindsay Wolfson, MPH

Lindsay is a Research Coordinator at the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health and a consultant at the Canada FASD Research Network. She holds a Master of Public Health, Social Inequities and Health, from Simon Fraser University. Lindsay is responsible for research and collaboration on projects relating to the operationalization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention, and the integration of gender-, trauma- and equity-informed approaches into policy and research.

On September 12 – 13, 2018 the Assembly of First Nations held their first Jordan’s Principle Summit. The two-day Summit brought together community leaders and members, service coordinators, families, policy and program planners and researchers to discuss what Jordan’s Principle is, how it’s being used across the country, and the future of Jordan’s Principle.

The Summit provided an overview of who Jordan is, the history of Jordan’s Principle, and examples of how Jordan’s Principle is being used by communities and service providers across the country.

Who is Jordan?

 Jordan River Anderson was a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Jordan was born in 1999 with complex healthcare needs that required him to stay in the hospital from birth. After Jordan was cleared to leave the hospital, he remained in the hospital for over two years because of jurisdictional disputes between the provincial and federal governments over who would pay for out-of-hospital care. In 2005, Jordan died in the hospital before he could experience life at home. Jordan’s Principle was created in his legacy to respond to barriers to services that affect First Nations children across multiple sectors including health, social development, and education.

 What is Jordan’s Principle?

 In 2007, Jordan’s Principle was unanimously endorsed through Private Member’s Motion (M-296) by the House of Commons as a Child-First Principle that was created to ensure that First Nations children experience the same access to health care as non-First Nations children. Under Jordan’s Principle, when a dispute emerges between the provincial and federal governments or between two ministries at the same level of government, the service must be provided and paid for without delay or disruption by the ministry or department that was first contacted.

Until 2016, Jordan’s Principle was inconsistently implemented. However, this contradicted the spirit of the Principle, which was to ensure that all First Nations children living on reserve have the access to services that they require. In May 26, 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a ruling on Jordan’s Principle requiring the Government of Canada to implement Jordan’s Principle in its full meaning and scope. This means that:

  • Jordan’s Principle applies on and off reserve to all First Nations children
  • Jordan’s Principle is based on the best interest of First Nations peoples and making sure that children’s needs are met
  • Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle, there should be no administrative barriers before service provision
  • Evaluations for individual funding under Jordan’s Principle should be completed within 12 – 48 hours of receipt and for groups, within 7 days.

 Application of Jordan’s Principle

Jordan’s Principle is implemented differently across provinces and jurisdictions. For example, in Manitoba, the 63 First Nations were asked to develop a pilot project to address the needs of children in their community. This Circle of Care approach is community-based, community-driven, and is dedicated to creating strong, healthy communities and increasing the capacity of the communities. In Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, following a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling, created the Choose Life Working Group to create a simplified process for applying for Jordan’s Principle funding.

Through the Choose Life Working Group, Mishkegogamang First Nation developed Maamo Wiidaanookiimiidiiwin, a land-based program developed to support children with mental health issues. The program uses Pashkokogan Lodge, a healing lodge previously supported by Aboriginal Healing Foundation to bring the children to camp and connect them with land, spirit, and culture. The program brings in clinicians, counsellors, arts therapists, occupational therapists as well as elders and traditional staff who are experienced in fishing, net setting, tree identification, and paddle making. Using the language, land, and culture, the program supports wellness, healing, and building self-esteem for participants, parents, community members, and staff.

Understanding regional differences in how Jordan’s Principle is accessed and the scope of what can be accessed (such as infrastructure, hiring staff, paying for beds, diapers, school supplies, land-based programming, in addition to health and social service access), can help families, communities, providers, and policymakers in both accessing Jordan’s Principle funding and responding to First Nations children’s needs.

The future direction of Jordan’s Principle after April 1, 2019 has not been confirmed; but the demand for Jordan’s Principle is high. This Summit was a stepping stone for policymakers and program planners in conceptualizing how Jordan’s Principle is being used, where gaps remain, and how health and social service providers have and continue to come together.

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