(Winnipeg, MB) The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) hosted its first ever national Jordan’s Principle Summit September 12-13 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. More than 850 First Nations citizens, family members, leaders, service coordinators, health directors and technicians, health and education practitioners, service providers and innovators gathered under the theme of Sharing, Learning, and Growing: Imagining the Future of Jordan’s Principle.
Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Born with complex medical needs, Jordan spent more than two years unnecessarily in hospital while the provincial and federal governments argued over who would pay for his at-home care. Jordan passed away in the hospital at the age of five, never having spent a day at home.
Day one of the Summit started with opening remarks from AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, AFN portfolio holder for Social Development and Jordan’s Principle, and Grand Chiefs from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who welcomed everyone to learn and share the important work underway on Jordan’s Principle and the important legacy of Jordan River Anderson. Regional Chief Hart set the tone for the next two days by saying that everyone can learn from families who have accessed Jordan’s Principle as well as from practitioners within health and education who use Jordan’s Principle to ensure that all First Nations children in Canada receive necessary services without disruption.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, delivered a powerful keynote address on the history and legacy of Jordan’s Principle. Dr. Blackstock shared her experiences in advocating for the rights of First Nations children, the Anderson family and Jordan’s Principle, and the joint complaint undertaken with AFN at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Dr. Blackstock continues to advocate for Jordan’s Principle and for First Nations children and families, and ensuring governments are accountable.
Delegates at the Summit were honoured to have four families who have been affected by delays, disruptions and denial of services or care, who shared their experiences and perspectives as part of a panel discussion. The Buffalo Jackson family from Alberta, Neeganawedgin family from Ontario, Nibby-Woods family from Nova Scotia, and the Sumner family from Manitoba all shared powerful and moving personal stories. Families spoke of their individual journeys and obstacles on accessing specific services needed for their child, and how Jordan’s Principle provided them with this opportunity. These perspectives helped participants understand what Jordan’s Principle means to First Nations children and families.
That evening, AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart hosted a ceremony to honour the legacy of Jordan River Anderson and Jordan’s family. There were songs and drumming, and a special gift was presented to Jordan’s father. Filmmaker and advocate Alanis Obomsawin presented a special screening of the trailer for her upcoming film on Jordan’s Principle.
Jordan’s Principle originated in Manitoba, and Day Two started with an update from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Speakers presented innovative strategies and practices on ensuring Jordan’s Principle is honoured and upheld for all First Nations children in Manitoba.
A Panel Discussion with Service Coordinators provided information on some innovative service coordination models currently being used throughout Canada, explaining how they provide front-line support to ensure First Nations children’s needs are met by connecting them with the supports and services they need.
A presentation and discussion by Valerie Gideon, the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch for Indigenous Services Canada, provided an overview on the joint priorities for Jordan’s Principle. She stated that First Nations’ voices must guide the long term implementation of Jordan’s Principle to ensure it is fully implemented and honoured.
Participants had the opportunity to attend workshops throughout the Summit on: Children with Disabilities, Understanding the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling, Sharing, Innovation and Best Practices for Jordan’s Principle Delivery, Family Perspective on Experiences with accessing Jordan’s Principle, and Mental Wellness.
The purpose of the AFN Jordan’s Principle Summit was, first and foremost, to share information with individuals and families to ensure First Nations children get the care and services they need and deserve without delay. To that end, the AFN will be making all Jordan’s Principle Summit materials and the final report available publicly on the AFN website at www.afn.ca or by request. The primary goal is the safety, health and well-being of First Nations children.
If you have any questions about how to access Jordan’s Principle, you can contact your local Service Coordinator, or you can also call Canada’s Jordan’s Principle Call Centre 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-855-JP-CHILD.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.