The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) Grand Chief Peter Johnston and executive director Shadelle Chambers announced on May 10 that CYFN is launching a service to help more First Nations children in the territory get access to Jordan’s Principle funding. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Council of Yukon First Nations launches new Jordan’s Principle service

The service will help families apply to a federal fund of $382 million

The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) is launching a service to help more First Nations children in the territory get access to Jordan’s Principle funding by offering families help with the application and service-connection process.

CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston and executive director Shadelle Chambers made the announcement in Whitehorse May 10.

“CYFN is proud to announce the launch of Jordan’s Principle here in the Yukon. Jordan’s Principle is about ensuring First Nations children and youth receive the services that they need,” Johnston said. “Unfortunately this is not the case here in the territory or for First Nations across the country.”

Jordan’s Principle prioritizes getting First Nations children access to government services over disputes between different levels of government on who should pay for those services. Essentially, the principle states that the first government of contact — whether federal, or provincial or territorial — must deliver the service requested, with payment to be discussed later.

In 2016, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) launched a $382-million fund as part of its Jordan’s Principle implementation, half a year after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada was discriminating against 163,000 First Nations children by not providing equitable access to government services.

CYFN has now entered a service coordinator contribution agreement with ISC, Chambers said, and will be hiring two staff members to help raise awareness about the fund and help families of First Nations children and youth with accessing it.

“Basically, if there’s a First Nations child (or) youth that needs access to any service, they can contact us here at CYFN and we can … help you navigate that system, submit your information and help determine and connect how the service providers and children can get access to those services,” Chambers explained.

“What we’ve seen is, you know, a psycho-educational assessment has been approved but where do you find the service provider to offer those services, right? So Indigenous Services Canada will likely approve the fund or approve the application, but they won’t do any of the navigation and connections of ensuring the First Nations child can actually connect with the counsellor or the respite or the services that they need … that’s why service coordinators are really important.”

CYFN is also in the process of visiting Yukon First Nations communities to raise awareness of Jordan’s Principle and the fund, Chamber said. It’s already made stops in Dawson City and Mayo, and has also met with the health and social services directors of all 14 Yukon First Nations and held a two-day Jordan’s Principle conference in February.

Chamber said those outreach and education efforts are already paying off: In October, there were only two approved Jordan’s Principle cases in the Yukon, but as of last month, that number has risen to 75.

“I think we’ve seen the numbers drastically increase and we will see the number increase when we continue to visit all the communities,” she said.

CYFN’s announcement coincided with “Bear Witness Day,” a national effort to raise awareness and education about Jordan’s Principle.

The principle takes its name from a Jordan River Anderson, a child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who was born in 1999 with a rare genetic condition that required extensive medical care. After years of treatment in hospital, Jordan was allowed to leave but spent another two years there as the federal and provincial governments fought over who should pay for his at-home care. He died in 2005, having never gone home.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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