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Children First

Fifteen years ago, a young boy died in a Winnipeg hospital never having entered a home with his family; his name was Jordan River Anderson. Jordan was born to a family in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba with multiple disorders that required him to remain in hospital care. At the age of two Jordan was well enough to be transported to a home, except Jordan never went home. The provincial and federal governments battled over who should cover Jordan’s medical expenses at home, down to the minuscule details of a specialty shower head. Jordan ultimately died in hospital at the age of five.

Jordan experienced the negative effects of being trapped in the middle of a government debate because of his Indigenous heritage. In Canada our healthcare is provided through provincial government funding while First Nation expenses are provided through federal funding. Unfortunately, Jordan’s situation was not unique and has resulted in many occasions where the provincial and federal governments debated who should pay for Indigenous children’s healthcare costs at the child’s expense.

Jordan’s life story invoked action across the country. The First Nation Child and Family Caring Society took immediate action in 2005 after Jordan’s death, tabling reports reflecting the current state of the federal government’s First Nations child and family services policy with recommendations for improvement, including Jordan’s Principle – a child first initiative to resolve jurisdictional disputes.[1] Two years later, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to support Jordan’s Principle, stating that the government of first contact is to cover the healthcare costs and determine responsibility after the fact. Over the next decade, provinces slowly began to implement the principle in their jurisdictions. Unfortunately, their implementation was limited with a narrow interpretation of the principle. In 2016 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the Canadian government guilty of racial discrimination against Indigenous children and called on the government to implement Jordan’s Principle in full. To date, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has issued four non-compliance orders against Canada, with the most recent being issued on February 1, 2018.[2]

Over the last year, GW Architecture Inc. has taken an active interest in the Jordan’s Principle initiative and has begun to work toward the implementation of Jordan’s Principle Programs in multiple First Nation communities in Manitoba. The program spaces allow First Nation health coordinators to bring healthcare professionals into their communities to provide children’s services. The new space allows for services previously only offered in urban centers, such as behavioral therapists, speech therapists, and

treatment spaces for autism spectrum disorders. The implementation of Jordan’s Principle in these communities opens so many doors for the families and children living on reserve. It has been a great privilege to work with communities, health directors and program coordinators to realize these spaces. To take a peak at our most recent Jordan’s Principle Program space design, click here.

May 10th is Bear Witness Day, a day that encourages people to bring teddy bears to work, school and daycare to support and "bear witness" to the implementation of Jordan's Principle. In honour of Bear Witness Day, the GW Architecture Inc team brought their teddy bears to the office to show their support for Jordan’s Principle and “Bear Witness” to the needs of our First Nation children.

[1] "Jordan's Principle - Timeline And Documents". The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, 2018.

[2] First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Assembly of First Nations v. Attorney General of Canada (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal February 1, 2018).

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