House fire death was preventable

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In 2004, severely disabled four-year-old Jordan River Anderson died in hospital even though a foster home awaited him -- a foster home because his parents couldn't get proper care for him at home in Norway House and had to give him up to CFS; a death because the federal and provincial governments could not decide who should pay for his care.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/05/2010 (4597 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In 2004, severely disabled four-year-old Jordan River Anderson died in hospital even though a foster home awaited him — a foster home because his parents couldn’t get proper care for him at home in Norway House and had to give him up to CFS; a death because the federal and provincial governments could not decide who should pay for his care.

Last Friday, autistic adult Randy Mann died in a house fire at Sagkeeng First Nation — he had accidentally set fire to his home a year earlier, a warning that he needed support to function in an independent living situation. Now Randy has died in a second accidental fire. I believe his death was preventable.

Randy Mann’s sister, Alma Mann-Scott, has been fighting for change. She told the media that she filed a human rights complaint against the federal and provincial governments last September because she feared for Randy’s life. She was quoted as saying First Nations receive $10 to do a job that costs $1,000. She wanted the federal and/or provincial governments to help her brother.

She said that Randy Mann had only a Grade 1 education, no vocational training, lived with his mother until she died and then Randy lived on his own with few supports.

When I heard about Randy’s life and death, I could not help thinking about Jordan.

Just like Randy’s family, Jordan’s family fought for change. With the help of many partners, including AMC, Jordan’s Principle was created. Also known as the Child First Principle, it means the level of government in first contact with the child assumes the cost of care and worries about jurisdiction later.

It took nearly a decade but, in 2009, Jordan’s Principle was voted in by the federal government, the first time in history a motion received unanimous support. Unfortunately, the bill cannot be implemented without the input of each province. Manitoba has introduced a child-first policy but has not yet documented an implementation plan.

Will we need to create a similar principle for disabled adults to ensure that our physically and mentally challenged adults on reserve get the same level of care as other Manitobans?

I know that rural Manitobans face some of the same challenges as First Nations on reserve regarding care for their disabled, often having to relocate the family to access care.

There are measures the federal and provincial governments can take to protect all of our disabled citizens.

Manitoba and all of the other provinces can implement Jordan’s Principle, not only to include First Nations disabled children but all of our most vulnerable.

Canada can endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states clearly that “particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration.”

During the 2010 Throne Speech the Harper government said Canada would reconsider endorsing the declaration if it fit with the Canadian Constitution, following up on the initial argument that Canada could not endorse the declaration because it may infringe upon the rights of other non-indigenous Canadians.

Affirming the rights of indigenous Canadians is affirming the rights of all Canadians. I encourage our governments to work together for the protection of our most vulnerable citizens.

Ron Evans is grand chief of the

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

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