Jordan's Principle is a child first and needs-based principle used in Canada to ensure that First Nations children living on and off reserve have equitable access to all government funded services. In order to ensure substantive equity, this can also include services that are not ordinarily available. According to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the organization that hosts the Jordan’s Principle campaign:
Jordan’s Principle ensures that First Nations children can access all public services when they need them. Services need to be culturally based and take into full account the historical disadvantage that many First Nations children live with. The government of first contact pays for the service and resolves jurisdictional/payment disputes later.
To refer a Jordan's Principle case, call the Government of Canada 24-hour call center at 1-855-572-4453.
Jordan's principle is reflective of the non-discrimination provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Canadian domestic law that does not allow differential treatment on the basis of race or ethnic origin. Private Members Motion 296 in support of Jordan's Principle was passed unanimously in the House of Commons of Canada on December 12, 2007.
In June 2015, the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission made Jordan’s Principle the third of its 94 "Calls to Action" for governments in Canada, stating, "We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan’s Principle."
Jordan's Principle was established by First Nations in response to the death of five-year-old Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House Cree Nation who suffered from Carey Fineman Ziter syndrome, a rare muscular disorder that required years of medical treatment in a Winnipeg hospital. After spending the first two years of his life in a hospital, doctors cleared Jordan to live in a family home near the hospital in Winnipeg. However, the federal and provincial governments could not resolve who was financially responsible for the necessary home care. For over two years, the federal and provincial governments continued to argue while Jordan remained in the hospital. In 2005, at the age of five, Jordan died in the hospital; he never had the opportunity to live in a family home.
Canadian human rights case
In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a Canadian legal institution with a mandate to adjudicate cases where there has been an alleged breach of the Canadian Human Rights Act, found that the Government of Canada’s improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle resulted in discrimination against First Nations children and youth on the basis of race and national ethnic origin and ordered the Government of Canada to "cease applying its narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle and to take measures to immediately implement the full meaning and scope of Jordan’s Principle."
Since January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued three remedial non-compliance orders against Canada for failing to abide by the original decision and implement the proper definition of Jordan's Principle. The third non-compliance order was issued in May 2017 after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the Government of Canada continued to repeat "its pattern of conduct and narrow focus with respect to Jordan’s Principle." Twenty-two additional legal orders in regards to Jordan’s Principle were made at this time. Alanis Obomsawin's 2016 documentary film We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice argues that the federal government has fought applying Jordan's Principle to such a degree that an $11-million fund set aside to cover its costs was never used.
In Canada, there is a lack of clarity between the federal and provincial/territorial governments around who should pay for government services for First Nations children even when the service is normally available to other children. Too often the practice is for the governments to deny or delay the child's receipt of services pending resolution of the payment dispute. Under Jordan’s 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 First Nations child, the government or ministry/department of first contact must pay for the services without delay or disruption. The paying government party can refer the matter to jurisdictional dispute mechanisms after the service or support has been provided. A jurisdictional dispute is not always necessary for the application of Jordan's Principle.
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (2018). Ensuring First Nations Children Receive the Public Services They Need When They Need Them.
- "Submit a request under Jordan's Principle: Step 3. Who to contact".
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2012). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (2018). Jordan's Principle. Retrieved 2018-04-05
- First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (representing the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada). Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (2016 CHRT 2).
- First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (representing the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada). Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (2017 CHRT 14).
- "We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice exposes Canada's barriers to reconciliation". The Globe and Mail. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
- Blackstock, C. "Jordan's principle: Editorial update". Paediatr Child Health. 13: 589–90. PMC 2603509 . PMID 19436554.
- First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (representing the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada). Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (2017 CHRT 14). Para. 135.
- Joint Declaration of Support for Jordan's Principle
- Canadian Journal of Medicine's editorial
- The Jordan's Principle Implementation Act
- Government of Manitoba's response to Jordan's Principle
- Auditor General of Canada Report (May 2008) http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_200805_04_e_30700.html
- Federal Government of Canada responses to Standing Committee on Public Accounts (2009) http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=4017684&Language=e&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=2
- UNICEF Report commenting on Jordan's Principle http://www.unicef.ca/portal/SmartDefault.aspx?at=2063