We welcome the Federal Court’s decision on the important issue of the application of Jordan’s Principle.
Jordan’s Principle is the policy statement adopted by the Federal government that First Nations children should be entitled to health care services equivalent to provincial levels, without delay. The effect of that principle was recently considered by the Federal Court in the case of Pictou Landing Band Council and Maurina Beadle v. Attorney General of Canada, 2013 FC 342.
Jeremy Meawasige is a young man with disabilities who requires home care in his home at the Pictou Landing First Nation. His mother, Maurina Beadle, had been providing all his home care until she suffered a stroke and became unable to provide full-time care. Since then, the Pictou Landing First Nation has been providing home care for Jeremy to supplement the care his family is able to provide. The cost of that home care used a majority of the First Nation’s total health care funding from the Federal government.
The First Nation requested that federal government reimburse the First Nation for its expenses, on the basis that Jeremy would be entitled to this level of care if he lived off-reserve. The First Nation and Jeremy’s family said that in this situation, Jordan’s Principle applied.
The Federal government denied the First Nation reimbursement of the costs of Jeremy’s home care, saying that Jeremy would not have been entitled to that level of care from the province of Nova Scotia if he lived off-reserve. Both the Federal and Provincial governments agreed there was a funding cap set at a maximum of $2200.00/month.
The Federal Court’s ruling says that AANDC was unreasonable when it made its decision that the First Nation should not be reimbursed for its costs.
The court ruled, just like in a previous decision of the Nova Scotia court, that in exceptional circumstances home care expenses will be provided to individuals residing off-reserve, in amounts exceeding the maximum. The Court found that the First Nation was complying with the provincial legislation when it provided home care to Jeremy in excess of the maximum.
Justice Mandamin said that Jordan’s Principle should not be read narrowly to exclude this kind of dispute between levels of government, and that therefore the First Nation is entitled to be reimbursed for its expenses providing care to Jeremy, because Jordan’s Principle binds the Federal government to do so.
Although each case involving providing comparable health care services will depend on the factual circumstances of the case, this case is the first time that the courts have said that Jordan’s Principle is binding and is not to be read narrowly. Certainly this decision will assist other families and First Nations seeking health care services funding that is comparable to provincial services.
It is a real victory that the First Nation will not alone be required to bear the cost of services that provincial governments are required to fund for off-reserve individuals.
We congratulate Jeremy Meawasige’s family, and the Pictou Landing First Nation, on their success in achieving equal service levels for Jeremy.
By Maggie Wente