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Jordan’s Principle is a ‘child-first principle’ named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation. Born on October 22, 1999 with complex medical needs, Jordan spent more than two years in hospital while the Province of Manitoba and the federal government argued over who should pay for his

Jordan’s Principle is a ‘child-first principle’ named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation. Born on October 22, 1999 with complex medical needs, Jordan spent more than two years in hospital while the Province of Manitoba and the federal government argued over who should pay for his at home care. Jordan died in the hospital on February 2, 2005, at the age of five years old, never having spent a day in his family home. Jordan’s Principle aims to make sure First Nations children can access all public services in a way that is reflective of their distinct cultural needs, takes full account of the historical disadvantage linked to colonization, and without experiencing any service denials, delays or disruptions because they are First Nations.

Payment disputes within and between federal and provincial governments over services for First Nations children are common. First Nations children are often left waiting for services they desperately need or are denied services that are available to other children. This includes services in education, health, childcare, recreation, and culture and language.

Jordan’s Principle calls on the government of first contact to pay for the services and seek reimbursement later so the child does not get tragically caught in the middle of government red tape.

In a historic ruling on January 26, 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered the federal government to immediately stop applying a limited and discriminatory definition of Jordan’s Principle, and to immediately take measures to implement the full meaning and scope of the principle.

Jordan’s Principle covers a very wide range of services, programs and products, including respite care; speech therapy; schooling supports; medical equipment; mental health supports; and more. Since 2016, the Government has committed almost $2 billion to Jordan’s Principle to help with health, social and education services that are needed right away.

Local service coordinators have been hired in communities across Canada. They can help families who have questions about Jordan’s Principle and/or would like to submit a request for products, services or supports under Jordan’s Principle

The government funds coordinators, who are staffed by: local tribal councils, First Nations communities, regional health authorities, First Nations non-governmental organizations, etc. It also has staff across the country dedicated full-time to Jordan’s Principle. They work closely with the local coordinators to make sure all requests are processed as quickly as possible.

NOTE: During the CoVid pandemic, Jordan’s Principle can help FN children get access to additional services such as laptops, tablets and other e-learning tools if they meet the health, education or social need.

Spirit Bear Day – May 10th

May 10th is an especially important day in the history of Jordan’s Principle, it was–as it was the day the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued its first non-compliance order against the government–the Canadian government. May 10th is also recognized as Spirit Bear’s birthday, a bear that has become sym­bolic of Jordan’s Principle.

Bill 223 is in front of the Legislative Assemble of Manitoba presently, and if passed, then May 10th will be known as Spirit Bear Day to help create awareness of Jordan’s Principle and the challenges faced by First Nation children when accessing government services. The bear is symbolic of the bear that was given to Jordan River Anderson in the hospital when his family had to put him in care in order for them to get proper medical care for their child.

There continues to be frequent misconceptions about Jordan’s Principle and its application. Below are four common “myths” about Jordan’s Principle.

MYTH: The Principle applies to cases where there is a dispute over which level of government will pay for a child’s services.

FACT: Jordan’s Principle is about supporting substantive equality for First Nations children when accessing services such as education, mental health, medical equipment, speech therapy and more. According to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal June 2017 summary of orders, “A jurisdictional dispute between departments or between governments is not a necessary requirement for the application of Jordan’s Principle.” Jordan’s Principle seeks to ensure that First Nations children can access all public services when they need them, and that those services be culturally based and take into full account the historical disadvantages many First Nations children face. It also seeks to alleviate the administrative burden on children accessing services, and eliminate service denials, delays and disruptions.

MYTHJordan’s Principle only applies to First Nations children living on reserve.

FACT: Jordan’s Principle applies equally to all First Nations children both on and off reserve. It is also not limited to only First Nations children with disabilities, or short-term issues. Any First Nation child who requires health or social service or support is eligible.

MYTH: Only a family can apply to have the costs of their child’s services covered under Jordan’s Principle.

FACT: A request for a child or children in the same family or with the same guardian can be submitted by:

  1. parents or guardians caring for a dependent First Nations child under the age of majority in the child’s province/territory of residence
  2. First Nations child above 16 years of age
  3. an authorized representative of the child, parent or guardian (written or verbal consent must be provided by the parent or guardian)

A community or service provider can make a request on behalf of a group of children from multiple families or guardians.

MYTH: Only services required to achieve the same standard of care non-Indigenous children receive will be covered under Jordan’s Principle.

FACT: The Jordan’s Principle fund is not a resource to fund baseline, normative care services for First Nation children. Jordan’s Principle is focused achieving substantive equality, which is not the same as equal treatment. Substantive equality is a human rights concept that weighs factors like discrimination, marginalization, and unequal distribution of resources when considering policies and evaluating outcomes. This means that additional services are part of the  Principle. The Government of Canada describes it as “…giving extra help when it is needed so First Nation children have an equal chance to thrive.”

Renée McGurry, Earth Lodge Development Helper



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