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Ottawa, Feb 21 (Canadian-Media): The federal program for early childhood development on First Nations designed in 2003 was accessible only to 18 to 19 percent of eligible First Nations children across the country, media reports said.
Indigenous Services department also reportedly said that its services were unavailable to First Nations children with special needs.
"The flagship program the government always talks about helping young moms and babies on-reserve is completely underfunded and broken," said NDP MP Charlie Angus, who obtained the information through an Order Paper question.
"Young babies with special needs can't get access and many of the locations where they are providing these services are substandard."
First Nations Children had reportedly to face long wait lists to access the program due to several factors including population growth, stagnant funding, a lack of trained staff, lack of proper equipment and accessibility, lack of proper infrastructure in housing the program, said the federal Indigenous Services department and added "which may erode service delivery and quality over time."
Angus said the child welfare crisis in First Nation communities could only end with early childhood development.
"It is part of the larger perverse funding mechanism the government has. They continually and chronically underfund these programs and then they seem surprised these kids grow up without an opportunity for education, and then are taken into the child welfare system." Angus was reported to state.
Funding and access problems with the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve program have been known for some time.
A Health Canada memo -- drafted after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services -- from January 2016 stated that the program failed to provide a level of assistance "comparable to that which is available to the general population."
The memo stated that at the time, only 17 percent of First Nations children living on-reserve benefited from the program.
Jane Philpott's, Indigenous Services Minister of Canada office had issued the statement reportedly confirming that an investment of $38 million was granted last year for repairs and renovations at Head Start facilities.
"Our government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous children receive the services they need, when and where they need them," Philpott was reported to state.
Federal government had reportedly allocated $12.8 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year also for urgent repairs and renovations for 70 facilities that house on-reserve Head Start programs across the country.
Official reports said that new Indigenous Early Learning Child Care Framework would also receive at least $130 million annually over the next 10 years under the federal government's $7-billion investment in early learning and child care.
Talks with "Indigenous partners" to increase "Indigenous control and influence over governance, programming and delivery" had been reportedly finalized recently by the department of early childhood learning services.
Increased funding service enhancement and expansion by the department reportedly was also in process.
A new Head Start building was reportedly opened last month by The Star Blanket Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
A provision of $700,000 for the new building to house the Coweneska Head Start Learning Centre was made by Ottawa.
Health services once provided to First Nations and Inuit by Health Canada are now delivered by Indigenous Services.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)