First Nations communities consistently receive government services that are below provincial standards. This includes special education, child welfare, policing, drinking water, and other government services. The Auditor General of Canada’s 2011 Report on Programs for First Nations on Reserves found that:
Despite the federal government’s many efforts to implement our recommendations and improve its First Nations programs, we have seen a lack of progress in improving the lives and well-being of people living on reserves. Services available on reserves are often not comparable to those provided off reserves by provinces and municipalities. Conditions on reserves have remained poor. Change is needed if First Nations are to experience more meaningful outcomes from the services they receive. (see page 5)
A number of human rights complaints have been started about the inadequate services provided to First Nations communities. The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have started a complaint about the discriminatory and unequal provision of child welfare services in First Nations communities. Mushkegowuk Council has started a complaint about the discriminatory and unequal policing services provided in First Nations communities. A summary of the legal issues in that complaint can be found in this legal document (a factum submitted to the Federal Court by Mushkegowuk Council).
Basic government services (including policing, healthcare, education, clean water, etc.) are generally provided to First Nations communities under federal jurisdiction and to non-First Nations communities under provincial jurisdiction. Because of this division, the federal government argues that it does not need to provide the same quality of special education in First Nations communities (under federal jurisdiction) as is provided in non-First Nations communities (under provincial jurisdiction). In other words, the federal government argues that it is allowed to provide First Nation communities with grossly inferior services as compared to non-First Nation communities. We disagree.