Jordan’s Principle is a child first principle intended to ensure that First Nations children do not experience delay, denial, or disruption of services because of jurisdictional disputes. This article describes the development of a federally-led administrative response to Jordan’s Principle and recent legal challenges to this administrative response. We identify seven major conceptual issues that currently prevent realization of the child first approach at the heart of Jordan’s Principle and may also introduce new inequities for First Nations children. Through content analysis of legislative, administrative, and judicial documents related to Jordan’s Principle, we demonstrate the complexity of policy making processes affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada, and in other countries (like the U.S.) that have similar structural frameworks.


We thank Marv Bernstein and Lisa Wolff (UNICEF Canada); Nico Trocmé and Lucyna Lach (McGill University); Elizabeth Moreau (Canadian Paediatric Society); and Doug Maynard (Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres) for their invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. We also extend our gratitude to Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society for her vital assistance in locating documents related to the review. This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant and by a gift from the Royal Bank of Canada foundation to support the McGill Centre for Research on Children and Families’ Children’s Services Research and Training Program.

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