Applying Jordan’s Principle beyond Health Services


On May 10th, our colleagues from the Manitoba Human Rights Commission challenged all of the human rights commissions across the country to honour “Jordan’s Principle Implementation Day” by tweeting or posting a picture with a bear on social media.  

Jordan’s Principle Implementation Day

The response was great. Some of the Commissions even shared pictures from schools or community groups that also responded to the challenge.  

It was a nice way to celebrate and add a bit of levity to a very serious issue.  

Jordan’s Principle states that when a child requires health services, those services should be delivered by the government of first contact. If needed, they can later seek repayment from the other jurisdiction. 

As the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada’s website explains: 

“Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle named in memory of Jordan River Anderson. Jordan was a First Nations child from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Born with complex medical needs, Jordan spent more than two years unnecessarily in hospital while the Province of Manitoba and the federal government argued over who should pay for his at home care. Jordan died in hospital at the age of five years old, never having spent a day in a family home.”

While health services are generally a provincial responsibility, services on First Nations reserves fall under federal jurisdiction. But most people don’t know about jurisdictional issues, policy or law. 

Jordan’s Principle Implementation Day

The purpose of Jordan’s Principle is to ensure that health services are delivered in a timely manner, so that the health and well-being of young people and their families are not compromised because of bureaucratic jurisdictional disputes. 

The federal government confirmed in May 2016 that it is committed to providing the necessary resources to fully implement Jordan's Principle. This is something to celebrate, because jurisdiction should not be a barrier when a child needs help. Sometimes, though, the “devil is in the details.” Those of us involved in human rights will need to watch carefully to make sure that concrete actions follow the nice words.

It also made those of us at the Canadian Human Rights Commission wonder: What would happen if all services were to take a “Jordan’s Principle” approach?

The Commission has already begun to undertake substantial changes to put people at the centre and to help people to navigate their way through the complaint process. We are also reaching out to other human rights commissions to see if we can help to sort out things like jurisdiction when it is unclear.

Would it make it easier for people to access their human rights if we applied Jordan’s Principle?

At the Commission we believe so and are starting to think more broadly about Jordan River Anderson, his legacy, and how it can inspire us to provide more accessible services.