Katzie First Nations chief Grace Cunningham, right, at Early Years Centre on reserve. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Access to care easier for a year, at Katzie First Nation

Pitt Meadows band partners with community living, child development centre

As of this July, kids at Katzie First Nation Early Years Centre who need help, have been getting it, just like any other kid because of someone named Jordan River Anderson.

Anderson was a Cree child from Norway House, Man., who in 2005, died at the age of five, after provincial and federal governments argued over who should be responsible for his care.

As a result, a motion was passed in the House of Commons in 2007 adopting what’s become known as Jordan’s Principle, which ensures that indigenous kids get health services and support when they need them.

“Today, Jordans’ principle is a legal obligation which has no end date,” Katzie First Nation chief Grace Cunningham said Tuesday at the Early Years Centre.

Later rulings from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Canada’s health treatment of indigeneous kids was discriminatory, prompting the government to provide more money to address the shortfall. A fund of $382.5 million has been set up to pay for health, social and education products, services and supports across Canada from 2016 to 2019.

This year, $237,000 was provided to Katzie First Nation, through B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority, said early childhood education manager Torrie James.

“Our hope is to have the funding extended for another year or more so we can continue to offer the support services we are currently offering in our partnerships,” James said.

The money has allowed counsellors and occupational and physical therapists from the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living and the Ridge Meadows Child Development Centre to offer services at the Early Years Centre on the Katzie reserve in Pitt Meadows.

Without that money, kids would have to be referred through a variety of different agencies in other cities, which creates delays.

But James said that it’s not certain they’ll be able to apply for a second year of funding.

Currently, speech and language therapists are on site two days per week, along with an inclusion support worker daily, (a) physiotherapist one day per week, occupational therapist 2.5 days per week, plus parenting workshops and family support, said James.

“This partnership is a prime example of how multiple agencies working together with a child-family centred approach to quality services can meet the needs of each child,” James said.

“We are all very grateful for the funding and see the benefits of it working daily.”

“Right now, we are offering services within the facility that are incredible,” she added.

Cunningham said later that she hopes the funding will continue “so the centre will grow and thrive and continue to support the needs of children who are accessing services.”

Ruimy told the small gathering Tuesday at the learning centre that he was going to say he was proud of his government.

“… but I cannot say that,” Ruimy said.

“I have never understood why this was an issue. Forcing First Nations to fight for what are basic human rights … I’m actually sad, embarrassed and even quite angry, as we all should be, that decades of governments of all stripes could not figure out how to do the right thing.”

More must be done, he added.

“Jordan’s principle aims to give First Nations children equal and fair access to services ordinarily available to other children,” said Ruimy.

“In partnership with the Child Development Centre, children on and off reserve are receiving the supports and services that they require to reach their full potential,” added Shawn Matthewson, with the Ridge Meadows Child Development Centre.

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare with Katzie First Nation Chief Grace Cunningham. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

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