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The Manitoba government will seek a judicial review of a ruling that found the province discriminated against a disabled Indigenous boy by not providing adequate health care.
The Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision, released Aug. 17, reached that conclusion because a First Nations family could not get provincial health care and related services on reserve. The government was ordered to pay the family $42,500.
"We believe this ruling confuses rather than clarifies which level of government is responsible for providing health care and related services to First Nations people living on reserve," said Eileen Clarke, Manitoba's Indigenous and northern affairs minister, on Wednesday.
"A judicial review of this decision will bring much-needed attention to the legal obligations of federal and provincial governments, and bring clarity to this important issue."
The case centres on Alfred (Dewey) Pruden, who was 16 when his complaint was heard last year. Pruden has a neurological disorder, is on the autism spectrum, and has vision loss and poor motor skills.
The hearing was told the province provided some health care services, but denied others on the basis that the federal government is responsible for health care in First Nations communities.
Adjudicator Robert Dawson ruled Pruden did not get the care he needed because of the jurisdictional divide between the two governments.
"No government or other official intended to treat the complainants differently by reason of their ancestry as Anishinaabe people," Dawson wrote.
"However, that was the very effect of the whole of the assorted policies, practices, and even laws that try to carve out the concurrent jurisdiction of the federal and provincial governments in respect of health care and related services for First Nations people living in First Nations communities."
The result was that Pruden, who's a member of the Fairford First Nation, 220 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, received less help than a non-Indigenous person in his situation would have, Dawson said.
The complainants had sought more money, including $200,000 in estimated future lost wages for the mother, who had changed jobs to have more time to care for her son. The adjudicator rejected that request.
On Wednesday, the province said it would will respect the adjudicator's decision to award damages to the Pruden family and provide provincial services during the judicial review process.
Clarke noted Canada's Constitution is based on a model of co-operative federalism that relies on federal and provincial governments and First Nations working together to develop and maintain services.
"(The federal government) has assumed responsibility for providing health-care funding for reserves in recognition of its historical relationship with First Nations people, and it’s now time to also own its role to bridge the health gap between those living on reserve and other Canadians," Clarke said.
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