The other religiously-abused Canadian child

January 25, 2015 • 10:30 am

Now that Makaya Sault has died from her untreated leukemia, there’s another 11-year-old first Nations Child from Ontario (“J. J.”) getting “alternative (i.e., useless) treatment, and she’ll also die from the same disease unless someone intervenes. But in this case, a Canadian judge did look at the case, and refused to intervene. Judge Getin Edward, who will have blood on his hands if J. J. dies, ruled against McMaster Children’s Hospital, who wanted to force the child to continue chemotherapy. Doctors there say that J. J. would have had a greater than 90% chance of survival with chemo. But her parents wanted “alternative” and “aboriginal” treatment, though they took J. J. to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, where they use quack nostrums like raw-food diets, lots of vitamins, and cold-laser treatment—hardly “native” healing.

Edward’s ruling was unconscionable; here’s how the National Post described it (my emphasis):

Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice suggested physicians essentially want to “impose our world view on First Nation culture.” The idea of a cancer treatment being judged on the basis of statistics that quantify patients’ five-year survival rate is “completely foreign” to aboriginal ways, he said.

“Even if we say there is not one child who has been cured of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by traditional methods, is that a reason to invoke child protection?” asked Justice Edward, noting that the girl’s mother believes she is doing what is best for her daughter.

“Are we to second guess her and say ‘You know what, we don’t care?’ … Maybe First Nations culture doesn’t require every child to be treated with chemotherapy and to survive for that culture to have value.”

Yes, Judge Edward, if the child will die without scientific medicine, and if “traditional methods” won’t help, then that is certainly a reason to invoke child protection.  The purpose of courts deciding such cases Judge Edward, is because the parents may believe they’re doing best for their children, but sometimes don’t.

In fact, I don’t see how any rational and caring person can rule as the judge did.  To conflate J. J.’s chemotherapy with the question of whether J. J.’s First Nations culture “had value” is ludicrous. The fact is that not everything in her culture has to have value, and one thing that doesn’t is its support for those who refuse to treat their sick children properly. Judge Edward apparently cares more for the reputation of an aboriginal culture than for the life of this poor child.  He’s an idiot.

A new piece on CBC News highlights J. J.’s plight. Reporter Connie Walker, a First Nations person herself (a Cree), was allowed to visit J. J., talk to her mother, and witness her treatment. The picture is bleak.

First, here are J. J.’s “medicines”, which don’t look helpful:

Photo: CBC

And the reporter has a few tart words about this treatment:

As a First Nations person myself, I’m confident I can say that none of my ancestors abided by a strict raw vegan diet, or took high doses of vitamins intravenously or underwent cold laser technology. Regardless, her mother said Hippocrates was in line with her belief in natural medicine.

Walker adds this:

When we arrived, J.J. was preparing her “green drink” of wheatgrass and juiced raw vegetables. Raw vegetables have been pretty much the only thing she’s been allowed to eat since she left chemotherapy in August.

But if she minded, she didn’t say. She didn’t say much of anything actually. She was quiet and shy but very sweet, and like most children in a frightening situation, she looked often to her mother to guide her.

And of course her mom professes deep love for the child she’s in the process of killing:

Her mom is a strong, confident woman. Direct and honest. Not afraid to share her views.

We had a long interview at their kitchen table where she described in detail her experience since her daughter’s diagnosis.

Last summer, she says, she had a healthy, happy daughter, and within a matter of weeks she was living every parent’s worst nightmare. It was obviously traumatizing for both.

There is no doubt she is a mother who loves her daughter fiercely. She won’t let anyone stand in her way in doing what she believes is best for her little girl.

What kind of “love” is that, though? I’m prepared to believe that the mother believes she loves her daughter, but its akin to the kind of love that men profess for their wives before they beat them. What mother would learn that her daughter has a greater-than-90% chance of cure with chemotherapy, and none with alternative medicine, and yet still choose the latter? It’s a mindset that baffles me completely.

Another disturbing revelation is that Dr. Bruce Clement, the head of the Hippocrates Health Institute, apparently persuaded the mother to take J. J. off chemotherapy. He, too, will have blood on his hands. How can these people live with themselves?

[J. J.’s mother] described Hippocrates as an amazing place. “It’s like a resort,” she said. She spoke about the director, Brian Clement, with glowing adoration. “What struck me most,” she said, “was he was not afraid of cancer. Cancer didn’t shake him like it shook me.”

I’ve seen many videos of Clement. There is no doubt he has a way with words. He travels around the world giving lectures, extolling the virtues of wheatgrass, and talking down vaccines, cancer and Western medicine.

It was his words that convinced her to leave chemo. She said she called him from the waiting room at McMaster and he assured her that leukemia was “not difficult for them to deal with.”

Clement now denies he said that, and when the reporter asked him for examples of people he had cured, he ordered her off the property. Here he is lecturing the reporter (photo from CBC)

Would you buy an alternative therapy from this man?

J. J.’s last hope is the Brant Children’s Aid Society, which has refused to intervene twice when J. J. and her predecessor Makayla Sault were removed from chemotherapy.  In fact, they praised the judge’s decision. Have a look at how the Children’s Aid Society director Andrew Koster behaved in this affair.

Both times, after just a few days investigating, they determined that despite the life-threatening illness that would almost surely result in death without treatment, these girls were not in need of his protection.

I interviewed Koster in May. In his office, he showed me the hutch filled with First Nations artifacts he’s collected over the years of working in child welfare.

He said it was the Child and Family Services Act that required them to “respect First Nations culture” and he “couldn’t even begin to think” about removing her from a caring family environment and forcing her into chemo.

Koster also called Judge Edward’s ruling to let the child undergo alternative treatment a “landmark decision.” That’s really screwed up.  This man is odious and dangerous. He’s protecting a culture, not children, and he should be fired. And strongly doubt that his organization requires “respect” of a form that prohibits intervention when a child’s life is at stake. Here’s the miscreant and his minion with the CBC’s caption:

Brant Children’s Aid Society executive director Andrew Koster, left, and Sally Rivers, the organization’s director of aboriginal services, praised the judge’s ruling, calling it a ‘landmark decision.’ (John Rieti/CBC)

Why do First Nations people get preferred treatment here, when in other cases in Canada parents who refuse medical treatment, even on religious grounds, not only get their children taken away, but are prosecuted for neglect. Last December, for example, 14-month old John Clark died of a staph infection after his Seventh Day Adventist parents refused to take him to a doctor, giving him vegetables instead (he was malnourished when he died).

As Global News notes, “Under the Criminal Code, the parents or guardians of a child are legally required to provide the basic necessities of life including food, shelter, care and medical attention.” And in that case religious beliefs didn’t matter: the parents’ other two children were taken away and mom and dad were both charged with “criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life.”

So why do First Nations parents get a break and Seventh Day Adventist parents not? There seems to be some inconsistency here. In the case of J. J. and Makayla Sault, after all, both children were refused “the necessities of life”—chemotherapy. And in both cases the refusal to get proper treatment was based on faith.

Unless the Brant Children’s Aid Society changes its mind and intervenes, which is unlikely, J. J. too will die. And as her mother lays her in her grave, she’ll insist that she deeply loved her child.  The problem is that she, the judge, and the Children’s Aid Society love First Nations “culture” more.



103 thoughts on “The other religiously-abused Canadian child

  1. How is this respecting J.J’s culture? Lasers and large doses of vitamins and dietary supplements are modern inventions. You don’t find large pills in nature unless they’ve been put there by a charismatic sociopath trying to make lots of money.
    Being with someone as they go through chemotherapy is a horrifying experience, you would do anything to help them. The doctors and lawyers should too.

  2. “Why do First Nations people get preferred treatment here…”

    I don’t think it is “preferred”. I think it is “differential”. I think it is criminal disrespect for the lives of native children.

    1. It’s not really multiculturalism in this case. Natives have special protections in the Canadian Charter.

      What is bad, is some First Nations people have chosen to use this as a way to politically assert their rights. In my view, rights are limited, indeed they always are. So, the First Nations rights should be limited where those rights conflict with these children’s rights to live.

      I’ve heard people saying things along the lines of “we have to address native ideas of medicine”. Saying things like this is condescending to natives who live just like me and it addresses this phoney politicization of these cases a few natives have taken on. Here is what a native, Spear, said about it in his Huff Post article.

      This campaign — a mixture of Christianity, alternative medicines, New Age dabbling, and traditional herbs — strikes me as an abuse of cultural integrity, rather than its defence. Unfortunately I’ve arrived too late: Justice Gethin Edward has already given the business a seal of approval.

      He also says this:

      From my point of view it would be gratifying to see the cause of indigenous rights asserted on something actually indigenous, rather than upon the creative practices of a Florida massage therapist or the proposal that Jesus cures. In some hospitals, an intergrationst (sic) approach has been taken, in which elders and cultural potocols (sic) have been brought into the institution. Belief in a culture doesn’t have to manifest itself in absolutist choices between supposed cultural purity and betrayal. Unless, I suppose, one is an absolutist.

      Ever since Oka, Canadian institutions have been walking on egg shells. It is true, First Nations get treated badly sometimes but are we going to spend our energy making sure they don’t get treated badly (Leona Aglukkaq I’m talking to you – properly represent Inuit who are living in third world conditions up north) and that their children get equal treatment (meaning we treat them the same as JW children who try to forego blood transfusions) or are we going to continue to infantilize these people?

    1. Exactly what I was wondering, esp. since legit hospitals & doctors are frequently taken to court. As are pharmaceutical companies if they misrepresent their products. But quacks get a bye?

  3. So why do First Nations parents get a break and Seventh Day Adventist parents not?

    The answer is obvious: Seventh Day Adventists are usually considered members of “western” culture and therefore standing on common ground with others and responsible for their choices by standards of what a ‘reasonable’ person should do. But see here…

    The idea of a cancer treatment being judged on the basis of statistics that quantify patients’ five-year survival rate is “completely foreign” to aboriginal ways,

    Aboriginal Indians do not understand the strange and mysterious ways of the White Man and his science-thinking. Electricity is “demons” in the wire. They are startled by the magic of the cigarette lighter and its inexplicable fire-giving properties — and awed by shiny beads and other trinkets. “Statistics? We no understand your “statistics. We count with fingers, and then stones. One, two, many.”

    People of the First Nations are noble savages, innocent of the corruptions of enlightenment thinking and role models for the purity of living close to nature and understanding the Old Gods and Ancient Powers of simple faith.

    We do not tarnish that. We do not expect them to think like us. We respect their ancient ways and look forward to visiting their tourist attractions and marveling at how different it is from what we’re used to, quaint and colorful and easy and oh, don’t we envy that when we compare it to our complicated and spiritually barren modern lives!

    The Little People have more to teach us than we can ever teach them, Racists.

    1. I agree it is condescending to First Nations but the real reason is probably about guilt over even fairly recent tragedies like the Oka Crisis. Ever since Oka, Canadian institutions (including the police) try to leave First Nations alone. There have been times when blockades over land disputes ruined the lives of people living on those neighbourhoods for years. Police didn’t want to touch it.

      From wikipedia:

      Protests during the years included blockade of roads and rail lines, damage to a power station resulting in an area blackout and more than $1 million in repairs, and low levels of violence from both sides, as well as isolated, more serious attacks. The government halted negotiations at times because of public danger from protesters’ actions, such as blocking public roads.

      I believe there was real fear something like this would happen again. It doesn’t make the decision right however as I believe it would be worth a confrontation to save a girl’s life.

      I really hope JJ’s mom comes to her senses and realizes that her daughter needs chemotherapy.

      1. Yes, I can see that fear as a motivation (like not printing Hebdo cartoons.) But the possibly unintended consequence of rebelling against the cruel imposition of “western culture” is a return to the old-fashioned and ultimately racist image of the Noble Savage unsullied by the intellectual habits of the civilized west, separate but equal. Medicine is not a lifestyle.

        1. It may appear like it’s “nobel savage” stuff on the surface but it’s really not. I think it is more about fear of retribution and First Nations rights.

          1. Yes. But the surface and the underlying depths have a disconcerting way of shifting positions. I keep thinking of the old adage “Be careful what you wish for.”

    2. I was exactly thinking along these lines, but you say it so much better.
      It is also an especially grotesque example of your Little People Argument. The officials involved in this bad decision are grading native Americans on a curve.

  4. So what if a First Nation-tribe favours a form of vendetta to settle scores and restore family honour? Would judge Edward condone it if men started slicing each other’s throats? After all, their culture might not need their grown men to live to have value to the community.

    I’d like to see his ruling if such a culture decides their precolonial ancestors used to sacrifice a virgin to the Sun every day.

    1. I doubt it. To know where a judge would draw the line in any given case depends on what the law actually says. IIRC, the section of the Constitution Judge Edward based his decision on basically says that the aboriginal practice [that gives First Nations Canadians a free pass from the laws that apply to the rest of Canadians] has to be a practice that both predated Columbus AND is integral to their culture.

      While I think Edward’s decision is wrong and phenomenally stupid, in fairness to him, given the urgency of the case, it appears that there was not much evidence on some of these issues.

      1. I think there is strong evidence that cold-laser treatment is not “a practice that both predated Columbus AND is integral to their culture”, don’t you?

        1. I think there is strong evidence that cold-laser treatment is not “a practice that both predated Columbus AND is integral to their culture”, don’t you?

          LOL! Well, hunting with power boats and ski-doos isn’t totally traditional either, yet courts have said this is close enough. Practices change as new discoveries are made. If we accept that gas-powered engines have a place in traditional practices, it’s not such a stretch to imagine that lasers may have a place in medicine.

          Not that I agree with the decision. I see medicine as an applied science rather than a cultural practice and I think “Western medicine” is a troublesome even racist notion. But if the court thinks medicine is a part of their culture then I don’t see why we should insist that it be frozen in the 1600s or declared invalid.

          1. This is why a friend of mine (who is a native rights activist of sorts) does not like the provisions in the law. She’s an Inuk (at least by choice) and so she reads the traditional practice as “use the most effective weapon available”. So yes, hunting with rifles is fine. The idea is to maximize (subject to other constraints) numbers of lifestyle choices. The friend would likely approve of allowing *adults* make uninformed health decisions. I realize as I write this itself is a problem for “accomodation” reasons.

            Why? Well, from what I understand, in many native cultures, a female child traditionally becomes an adult (for example, can consent to sexual intercourse, can live as others do, etc.) at menarche. Needless to say, this itself conflicts with what Canadian law etc. says. And so we have a *higher order* conflict which is even more difficult to resolve. Personally I’d be in favour of making the “one law for all” here, and I think my friend would too, provided the law was one of less than full-adult for things like health care – abortion being her favourite example, as that’s what the cases in Quebec partially were.

  5. These double standards extend into other areas of life as well. First Nations businesses are not required to have liability insurance, so that when a friend of my sister suffered permanently debilitating brain injury as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning in the poorly ventilated cabin of a tour boat taking her to see white “spirit bears” on the BC coast in September 2006, she got a paltry payout, and will live the rest of her life in straightened circumstances with very serious medical problems, because the owners of the boat happened to belong to a certain racial group, and thus didn’t have to bother with the legal niceties that any other business is obliged to observe.

  6. So, if a First Nation mother said her “culture ” told her to kill and eat her children, that would be ok? And why did the West go to the aid of the Ebola victims in West Africa, persuading when possible, but forcing if necessary, the abandonment of their burial rituals?

    Doing a Rain Dance is one thing, killing your child is quite another.

  7. Natives have special rights under the Canadian Charter and they have decided to take a stand to exercise these rights. In other words, this girl’s illness has become politicized.

    Indeed, the HHI treatments are not aboriginal. I’ve been told on my post that I did for CA that I’m wrong because the girls ARE TO receiving aboriginal medicine and this is just extra stuff and the media has misrepresented the whole thing and Jerry has twisted the words of the CMJA.

    I thought that rights had limits. If your native rights are killing a child they trump the child’s right to live. I don’t understand the logic. I understand the fear that natives will be upset but that doesn’t matter as much to me as saving a child’s life.

    1. Oh, they “ARE TOO!” … well that changes everything! I mean, QED.

      I was surprised to hear, in light of these two cases, the Canadians don’t bow to Western believers – still puts you ahead of the U.S. FWIW. I get it, finally, that this is purely a First Nations issue. Sick.

    2. I understood the point the person who commented on your post was making when I read it, but his logic is screwed.

      Basically, in order to make a point about their rights, activists are prepared to sacrifice the lives of two young girls. That’s wrong, whatever the circumstances.

    3. The logic is that parents own their children up until the age of consent whichis whatever age the subset of culture decides. Theoretically the parents because of their love and empathy for the child have the child’s best interest at heart but clearly those “best interests” are influenced by there culture religious or not. What is another matter altogether but NONTHELESS interesting is where that ownership (and thus the total right over life, death and health)begins and ends. I am of course thinking about the right of a society to tell a woman not to have an abortion when the “child” is a part of her own body and actually a potential human being. But as I said that is another argument all together.

        1. You’re right. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, more than once, that religious beliefs don’t trump science when a child’s life is at stake.

          JJ’s case is an exception, because there is another section of the Constitution [35?] that allows First Nation’s traditions to trump the general laws of Canada if certain conditions are met.

          In my view, in this case, those conditions were not met, and the judge got this case wrong, but I am not a judge.

          1. Can the judge’s decision be appealed? Even if the process is too long to save the life of this child, if an appeal is possible it should proceed with a view to the future protection of children.
            The law is a complete ass if it fails to protect the lives of first nation children whilst protecting others.

    4. Diana, I read that comment too on your Canadian Atheists post. The commenter seemed to think that the key thing was the parents including ‘traditional medicine’ along with other woo: because the parents invoked their First Nations right to use traditional medicine (herbs), the other woo was irrelevant. What the commenter didn’t address was that the parents *dropped* chemo from the treatment plan at the same time that they *added* herbs. The first action doesn’t seem justified by the appeal to First Nations rights and cultural sensitivity, although the second might be I guess. The judge also seems not to have addressed the difference between those two actions.
      I wondered if you or our host had anything else to add about that specific bait-and-switch, since you’ve thought and written about this tragedy a lot.

      1. Based on the CBC story Jerry linked to in this post and I linked to on my post, the only traditional medicine JJ is receiving is herbal tea her healer prescribed her. The rest is HHI stuff. What strikes me is JJ’s mom was giving her traditional medicine along with the chemo, which no one has issues with. Then she met this quack in Florida and he convinced her, according to the CBC article, to go to HHI and drop the chemo. It seems to me, this was a mother manipulated by a sociopathic charlatan, worried by the horrendous side effects of chemo who decided to make this claim that this was her right as a First Nations person to continue with “traditional medicine” but really, she was simply continuing the same herbal teas she was already using (I suspect) and picking up the HHI quackery.

    5. It seems to me the whole (independence/special rights) argument is somewhat undermined by it being decided in a Canadian court of law.

      I mean, if you’re doing that, you have already conceded that whatever independence the first nations have, it is not an independence from Canadian jurisprudence. They must obey Canadian practices of law. If that was untrue, it would not have been decided in a Canadian courtroom in the first place.

      1. It’s because self governance does not equal sovereignty. They must still comply with Canadian laws & the Canadian Constitution. The Charter gives them additional rights to non aboriginals.

  8. “I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness…” -Christopher Hitchens

  9. Very simply is there a way that some one or group could sue the judge or the “doctors” or other involves for fraud or child endangerment. If these people realized that they were risking their own comfort by advising or permitting death dealing treatment then maybe they would have second thoughts. Is there an ACLU protecting innocent children from death dealing cults.

    1. Not in Canada. The Brant Childrens’ Aid Society is supposed to protect children, but here they declined to do so — twice.

      The actual court hearing was an application by the Hospital, having learned from Makayla’s case, for a court order directing the Brant Childrens’ Aid to intervene. So here the Doctors are clearly the good guys. The judge refused the order, based on his interpretation of the Constitution. I think many other judges would have decided this case differently.

  10. Normally, I don’t like to do this because I feel like I’m pushing my own agenda, but I talked to Jerry about these posts and he recommended that I link them here. 🙂

    I’ve been following these stories for some time. I live near where these girls are from (New Credit First Nation and Six Nations). I think of these girls as just other Canadians who live just like me and it’s terrible to see this all unfold.

    I think Jerry is spot on with his analysis and those that claim he doesn’t have the historical background are throwing out red-herrings. It doesn’t change the facts.

    Here are my articles in order:

    Jerry was quicker than me here too but I added my thoughts: Court in Canada Allows Parents to Stop Chemotherapy in Favour of “Traditional Medicine”.

    An Aboriginal Perspective on the Decision to Take 11-Year-Old Girl Off Chemo in Favour of Traditional Medicine

    You’ll see a link to a video here where the CBC correspondent, who Jerry refers to in this post, confronts this HHI psychopath: Former Staff Sue Florida Spa that Treated First Nations Girls with Cancer

    The latest which references Jerry’s New Republic article where I take heat in the comment section: Makayla Sault Died Because Canada’s Institutions Failed Her

    1. Excellent articles all. Thanks for the links.

      “Bioenergetics” and “positive thinking” are spiritual buzzwords and are I think thus perfectly consistent with Traditional Aboriginal Medicine in the same way one supernatural belief system looks pretty much like any other when you get right down to it. You can borrow and exchange elements at will.

      “Religion” may be tied down to specific doctrines and creeds — but Spirituality is free, open, and fluid. If the First Nations tribes invoke the spirituality mantra, then they can include cold laser therapy, bioenergetics, and enemas made with wheat-grass or even radium into their holistic wellness programs and feel very tribal indeed.

      1. Yep, and I think this sociopath from HHI knew that. It’s why he came to Canada and visited First Nations reserves exclusively.

        1. Alties have a common theme: the Establishment doesn’t accept our views because we are natural, spiritual, traditional, and listen to the patient. This will easily adapt itself to any group which is (or feels) marginalized.

          There’s another common theme running through most alternative medicine. You need faith.

          Doesn’t matter what form the “faith” takes. It can be sincere, devout adherence to supernatural dogma or it can just be the idea of being “open to possibilities” without a whole hell of a lot of critical scrutiny. But if you’re not a “person of faith” you’re less likely to respond to all the button-pushing which goes on in alt med.

          1. I really like your last point here. I think there’s also a case of some being so busy trying to be politically correct, they are missing the most important point – that a child’s life is on the line.

            1. I agree, I think a lot of people are getting lost in the details. What’s important is a little girl died and another’s life is on the line because of not receiving well researched science-based treatment with well established odds of recovery.

              1. Sadly, I think it’s now too late for J.J.

                David Gorski, a Detroit oncologist and researcher, who blogs at Respectful Insolence, has covered these cases from a medical standpoint. He does not paint an encouraging picture.

              2. Yes, I really like David Gorski’s posts. He completely demolished Suzanne Somers’s idiotic cancer treatments.

        2. That was really what I was wondering, why do Canadian ‘First Nation’ people go to a modern Floridian quack? Now I see they were specifically targeted.
          Is there no law against quackery in the USA?( I mean they make medical claims, but have no medical credentials) How can this HHI scam be allowed to proceed? And kill more ‘First Nation’ children on the way?
          In my limited pantheon, Clement is a criminal and Koster his accomplice.

          1. I hope that sociopath is sued. Already his former nurse is suing him so with all this attention over these cases, I hope more Americans take him to court.

          2. There are some laws against false product representation. You can’t legally claim your snake oil cures cancer unless the FDA or some other body has evaluated it and agreed it does. However, if you are not explicit and public about what your snake oil does (instead making vague claims, like it ‘promotes health’), then you are allowed to sell it as a “dietary supplement.” Secondly, there are always more cons going on than the government has resources to fight, so many many fake-medicine ads and sales go unchallenged simply becaues of the lack of regulatory reosources. At this point in time in the US, and this is just IMO, it basically takes a individual bringing a civil suit against a con artist before government regulators start to pay attention.

  11. It was horrendous that First Nations children in Canadian past endured abuse incurred by removing them from their families to enforce cultural indoctrination. However, that callous treatment seems mild contrasted at present by the Canadian legal system not only allowing parents to kill their own kids, but to praise these killers to the sky.

    These parents use no science-based product in their homes? They are cherry picking science, not practicing a pure version of their culture.

  12. “So why do First Nations parents get a break and Seventh Day Adventist parents not? There seems to be some inconsistency here.”

    The Canadian First Nations are a special case in law since they were not conquered and the treaties they signed preserved their right to self-governance. They are, in many ways, affiliated nation-states within Canada rather than just being a different social or cultural group (hence the name “First Nations” rather than merely “aboriginal”).

    In particular, each First Nation has the right to govern the “activities, practice, and traditions of the aboriginal peoples” and I believe (though am not positive) that this includes medicine and health treatment. So in this case, if JJ’s national laws allowed the mother to use this treatment, then the Canadian government doesn’t have the legal right to overrule it.

    I’m in complete agreement with you that the law has really let down JJ and Makayla, but I wonder if the blame should be placed with the native tribal structures who refused to intervene. Once they decided that it was legal, the Canadian courts were, I think, legally obligated to respect that.

    I know it may not seem like a satisfactory answer from a moral or ethical perspective, but as Canada has recognized that First Nations are “nations” with the rights to make their own laws and follow their own practices, then I think it is the right choice. Or the legal one. Perhaps there’s an interesting discussion on whether the Canadian government should try to strip those rights and to assimilate the aboriginal peoples into Canadian law & society but that’s a much, much bigger issue and not one that’s going to get resolved just because some First Nations have made egregious errors on child welfare. An analogy may be made with the US where individual states can pass laws which seem unconscionable to other states or even the federal government, yet no one has the legal means to change it. That’s why we don’t blame the US Federal government for not stopping an execution in Texas.

    1. I believe First Nations have guaranteed rights under the Charter but they are more like small towns than they are separate governments. They still must adhere to the law and like any rights, their rights can be limited (or so one would reason). Yes, they have treaties with the crown but I thought this is more around land.

      I also think First Nations issues are front a centre ever since the Oka Crisis in 1990 and of course the apology over the residential schools as well (which were run by Anglicans BTW who I believe didn’t apologize).

      The problem with working with First Nations is they can be very fluid. If you deal with a group of protestors they will tell you they don’t recognize (whichever authority: their chief, Canadian government, etc.).

      1. Oh and I should say I think Nunavut is probably the best example of self government. I could be wrong but I think there is a distinction between original treaties made with The Crown and what they call “modern treaties” concerning self government.

      2. I’m not a lawyer so your interpretation may well be right. Are there any good resources which can help settle this?

        As I understand it, unlike small towns, the First Nations are treated like a high-level nation that’s occasionally under the feds, occasionally peers. They even have a couple sections of the charter (eg: section 25, 35). In them, the charter affirms that the First Nations are akin to nations and that they retain the rights they had before European contact. The legal decision here hinged upon the question of whether the Canadian Federal Government has the right to regulate the child-care and medicine standards or if this was a responsibility of the Native nation/band.

        When the court talks about traditions & practices, they aren’t saying that cancer quacks are ancient but rather than medicine & child care are necessarily areas where the First Nations had traditionally governed themselves and had not ceded these rights.

        1. It’s weird too because some of the stuff the Canadian government lists as out of the scope of native purview is “divorce”. There is a big list in the link I added of what’s in & what’s out.

          I think this stuff would have to be poured over by a constitution lawyer and a person familiar with all the treaties, etc.

          1. Thanks, I missed the divorce bit. I’m still going through all of the links you left 🙂

            It’s quite an interesting discussion and a lot murkier than when I first hear about it. Initially I was appalled at the courts, now I’m a lot less sure. Over the past couple years I’ve listened to many First Nations here on the west coast and there have been some startling court cases (eg: granting a virtual veto over resource development in their traditional territories) which have all found that the aboriginal people weren’t conquered and their land wasn’t taken but that they should be treated as a separate, independent nation-state within Canada. Where the boundaries lie and sorting through which laws will apply is sure to tie up lawyers & courts for years, maybe generations.

      3. It is tricky – it might depend on *which band* or other group.

        For example, in BC the treaties do seem to be “nation to nation” style. Whereas elsewhere they are “you’re now a Brit” style (or “now a Canadian” in perhaps some rare cases).

    2. Canada has recognized that First Nations are “nations” with the rights to make their own laws and follow their own practices, then I think it is the right choice.

      One nation typically does not get its internal legal arguments settled in the court of another nation. Clearly the first nations are part of Canada if this battle is taking place in the Canadian court system. Simply by doing that, the first nations have already conceded the point that the Canadian government has the right to adjudicate their legal matters, and JJ’s rights to treatment are a legal matter.

  13. “Why do First Nations get preferred treatment…?”

    I have a theory about this. This is based off my own observations after having lived in Canada for 7+ years, coming from the States. I am not a legal or historical expert by any stretch, so keep all that in mind as you read.

    It seems to me that the status of First Nations communities in Canada is one of a vast network of semi-autonomous nations. This is legally true to various degrees in the US as well (think of casinos on aboriginal land in states where commercial casino gambling is illegal). However, from what I can tell, the degree of this autonomy is quite different between the two countries. Indian/aboriginal issues are not even on anyone’s radar in the US. I won’t get into why I think this is the case.

    The fact is that aboriginal issues are front and centre in Canadian politics and society at the moment, and have been since at least 2008, when the Prime Minister’s Office released an official statement of apology for the treatment of aboriginal peoples in the residential school system. Every politician and social issue channel seems to be exceptionally aware of what they say and do about First Nations’ issues now; the spotlight has been shone on these things.

    Coupled with this heightened social awareness is the very practical nature of working out exactly how First Nations can and should legally operate within Canada. They have legal and political power akin to the provinces in many significant ways; for example, development protocol of natural resources or establishing independent building codes. They also have some autonomy over their healthcare. I do not know the extent of this, but I do know that BC First Nations’ health care is not necessarily the same as what the rest of BC pays for.

    It’s my understanding that the boundaries between where First Nations autonomy begins and Canadian sovereignty ends are very much in flux. High profile court cases are always in the news, whether it’s about if a tribe can veto a proposed pipeline to be built near their land, or about the topic at hand above. There is extreme cultural sensitivity to these matters of autonomy now, and liberal guilt seems to abound. This seems to be the case within the legal system too.

    I am disgusted by the court’s ruling in J.J. and Makaya’s cases, but I think they have ruled that way because they are essentially reaffirming and bolstering the idea of First Nations autonomy. That’s why you will never see a ruling like this in the case of a non-aboriginal Christian Scientist parent denying their child access to life-saving care. The important qualifier isn’t the Christian Scientist bit, it’s the non-aboriginal. And even then, if that family was not living on First Nations land, the double standard probably wouldn’t apply. For this reason, I would hesitate to call this double standard a “racist” one. It’s actually one about sovereignty, it seems to me.

    Of course, that begs the question of if it even makes sense to talk about First Nations sovereignty in Canada. If a totally sovereign nation were surrounded by Canadian land, then Canada would have no legal right to determine what its people could or could not do. Of course, such a scenario would require that sovereign nation to have its own courts to adjudicate matters, but Canadian First Nations do have their own courts. For some things. And there’s the grey area. Just how sovereign are they?

    Given what I know, I would contend that First Nations cannot operate as a completely separate alliance from the rest of Canada, so then where to draw the line? Personally, I don’t see how you can humanely justify drawing the line on the dying side of a child’s life, but unfortunately the court’s seem to view such things as mere abstractions, removing the humanity from the equation. First Nations autonomy/sovereignty is an important and interesting issue no doubt, but it’s disgusting to see its hijacking of a child’s life touted as a victory, or a “landmark” event.

    1. Here, for your enjoyment. Everything you ever wanted to know about First Nations Self Government


      The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent right of self-government as an existing Aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It recognizes, as well, that the inherent right may find expression in treaties, and in the context of the Crown’s relationship with treaty First Nations. Recognition of the inherent right is based on the view that the Aboriginal peoples of Canada have the right to govern themselves in relation to matters that are internal to their communities, integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions, and with respect to their special relationship to their land and their resources.

      This is mostly about culture. There is nothing about medicine in particular there. Sadly, “health” is mentioned in the scope of negotiations.

      Also, where does it end? Self government ≠ soverign state:

      The inherent right of self-government does not include a right of sovereignty in the international law sense, and will not result in sovereign independent Aboriginal nation states.

      First Nations communities operate under the same constitution and laws as the rest of Canada. Indeed, I see them as towns or cities.

      Here is the information about Makayla Sault’s community

      Note the last names of the councillors.

      1. Awesome information. Thanks for this, Diana.

        One thing I don’t get is if First Nations communities are supposed to operate under the same Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the rest of Canada, then how can the courts reconcile that with a ruling of the kind that explicitly denies life-saving treatment to a minor at the behest of their guardian? Doesn’t that violate Section 7 of the Charter at least?

        1. Yes, my question as well. I’m no constitution lawyer but I thought that rights could be limited in instances just like these. There is even the “not-withstanding clause” to limit rights.

            1. Wow, that’s incredible. Line 80: “One of the issues raised by the court during the hearing was the issue of integrity. To this end, I would reiterate how the evidence points to D.H. as being deeply committed to her longhouse beliefs and her belief that traditional medicines work. She has grown up with this belief. This is not an eleventh-hour epiphany employed to take her daughter out of the rigors of chemotherapy. Rather it is a decision made by a mother, on behalf of a daughter she truly loves, steeped in a practice that has been rooted in their culture from its beginnings.”

              I can’t believe a judge would actually make this kind of reasoning. Wouldn’t this apply to *everything* someone holds as a belief they’ve grown up with, regardless of who it hurts? There’s no way to objectively discriminate between a belief one is “deeply committed” to and otherwise; and in either case this says nothing about the practical effect of such belief. Using tradition to justify ignorance is at the heart of all religious accommodationism.

              But worst of all, in the conclusion, “I cannot find that J.J. is a child in need of protection when her substitute decision-maker has chosen to exercise her constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional medicine over the applicant’s stated course of treatment of chemotherapy.” But the definition in line 55 explicitly says that a child in need of protection is one which requires medical treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm and the child’s parent…refuses…the treatment.” How the hell does this situation not fit that definition? Madness.

              1. I think the judge is off here if you look at the CBC report. It seems JJ’s mom took her off chemo after talking to the HHI guy, who I am convinced is a very charming sociopath. She wasn’t even in the court when this case was tried.

            2. Yeah, I disagree with the ruling but I’m no lawyer. I’d like to see this taken before the Supreme Court.

              1. Yes to all of these comments.

                The court ruling is very hard to understand. A First Nations parent has the constitutional right to add traditional medicine (herbs) to her child’s treatment (along with chemo), and the court ruling confirms this. But the judge seems to extend that right far beyond what was intended, so that the parent can also use a traditional medicine claim to reject some non-traditional medicine (like chemo) while choosing to add some other non-traditional ‘medicine’ (like cold lasers and vitamins and wheat grass juice).

                As others have pointed out this seems crazy and dangerous as well as racist, isn’t it? Other parents of children with the same disease could add herbs and cold lasers and wheat grass juice to their child’s treatment, but could not also take their child off chemo. It is hard to understand why the judge would want First Nations parents to have that unique opportunity to harm their own children through their own ignorance or through bad advice from others. Confirming the right to add traditional herbal medicine doesn’t require extending the right to make other misinformed decisions on behalf of the child. Or have I missed something?

          1. Sections 25 and 35 prevent the use of the Notwithstanding Clause by the provinces with regard to First Nations issues, otherwise most would legislate the treaty negotiations and keep renewing the clause every 5 years like Quebec does with Bill 101 for language.

            While I feel awful about what has happened and what is likely to happen to J.J., looking at much of what has been written on the topic, I don’t think we’re drawing the best comparisons here to understand the problem. Rather than looking at the JWs and their court battles, something like Elian Gonzalez might be a better comparison. While there was much talk of what was “best” for Elian, the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction had to be addressed before it could be determined who got to choose the “best” outcome.

            These issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction are also primary with the attempts in Canada to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for First Nations self-governance. While many of the Nations have purchased services from the provinces like education, policing, etc, many have been making the effort to deliver those services with their own resources. Child Services is one of those “transitional” areas where most band councils don’t have a resource in place, but still recognize it as an area where they have final say. The judge recognized it as well, and without any protest from the First Nations leaders, had no basis to remove the child.

            It would be much like if during Jerry’s travels in India he had felt that some of the children selling goods in the street were suffering harmful effects from their working conditions and needed protection. Could he simply take the initiative to “protect” them himself?

            He’d likely end up in jail if he did so, and while he might know some practices are wrong, there’s a good possibility that the Indian government might explain that the working practices were acceptable there, as part of their “culture”.

            To understand the reluctance to accept our word for things it is important to remember that during the residential schools era that the government and the churches had tons of “evidence” that assimilation and separating the children from their families and their language was the “best” thing to do. Lots of “experts” were ready to step up and declare this the best option, and criticize the native “traditions”.

            We f*cked that up royally, and took decades to admit it, so now, trying to take control of a First Nations girl, using the same sorts of arguments and appeal to authority, it’s not surprising that they don’t immediately accept what we’re saying or the evidence we offer without some in their community to corroborate it.

            What it’s going to take is continuing educational improvement for First Nations people, and for Aboriginal leadership, lawyers, journalists and those professionals with scientific and medical education to speak up as part of the community and move the “culture” toward evidence-based medicine.

            Just as the “traditional” native fishery has accommodated modern techniques and equipment because the community wanted it,the community could adopt modern oncology as part of their “culture” and make it the basis of treating cancer in their health practice if there is enough support from within the community. That’s the outcome to work toward, to ensure long term benefit for everyone.

            1. We f*cked that up royally, and took decades to admit it, so now, trying to take control of a First Nations girl, using the same sorts of arguments and appeal to authority, it’s not surprising that they don’t immediately accept what we’re saying or the evidence we offer without some in their community to corroborate it.

              But two wrongs have never made a right yet. For starters, this lumps people into caricatured groups, making innocent modern doctors and medical experts “guilty” of past political crimes. This is a fast track towards denying genuine medical care to those who need it: shoving medical experts in with despots and racist politicians on the grounds of ethnic or cultural “tribe”. Surely the most important point is not that the “White Man” did the appealing to authority both then and now, but that this time the arguments are sound, whether or not made by the “White Man”.

              Secondly, it turns this particular individual’s medical needs into a mere political bargaining chip for an agenda based on the assumption that there are two “tribes” and the aim of the exercise is to get them to get along. The fact that the “White Man’s” statistical medicine actually works is then treated, astonishingly, as either irrelevant or secondary to some imagined game in which one “tribe” likes the other “tribe” more if it doesn’t meddle for the good for its members. Quite apart from the fact that this either trivializes “their” intelligence or trivializes “our” medicine, it judges facts not on grounds of truthfulness but on grounds of expediency and convenience. In other words, it is manipulation and dishonesty.

              Lastly, the logic doesn’t necessarily work even on its own premises. It is assumed that the best way to build trust and mutual respect between “cultures” is to maintain a difference or inequality and let them make mistakes and grievous calamities when both are preventable and unnecessary, rather than challenge particular tenets, claims, and activities. Surely a better way of building trust and mutual respect would be respecting someone enough to challenge them when they’re making a fatal mistake?

              1. Except that they’re not caricatured groups, as members of First Nations have a recognized status in Canadian Law and the rights that go with it. While it’s not a perfect analogy, think of diplomatic immunity. If an ambassador’s child were taken for treatment to a Canadian hospital, and then chose not to follow the doctor’s course of treatment, the Canadian government couldn’t unilaterally take charge of the child, it would be the government of the Ambassador’s country that would have jurisdiction.

                While First Nations’ autonomy and self-government doesn’t extend quite that far, the court ruling simply acknowledged that it is the leadership of the First Nation who ultimately gets to decide whether the families made appropriate medical decisions.

                That won’t change without constitutional amendments, so the way forward is to have knowledgeable members of First Nations speak out to influence public sentiment and the leadership, so that just as we see this as an incorrect health choice, the leadership will see the same thing and oppose any claim in the future that this sort of thing is “traditional”. This will save children in the future, because those who have the power to decide will be making correct decisions.

                As to your point about our judgement being sound “this time”, what would you point to that wasn’t also used as evidence for the residential school policy? There were scientists, lawyers, clergy, academic studies, and the government all supporting residential schools.

                I agree that chemo is the better option but without establishing trust, there’s no way to communicate that effectively. That’s why you need the lead to be taken by First Nations’ community members who are respected and trusted and whose arguments will be given more weight. I don’t see that as blaming these influential people, but rather “challenging” them to use your word. The reason a challenge will be effective with them is that they’ve accepted these forms of evidence and the validity of these forms of treatment. For that reason, they can serve as a bridge to advance the culture with regard to cancer treatment in a way that all our shouting of “challenges” at those who don’t accept our evidence will not.

                Jerry often makes it a point to celebrate the FFRF and how they protect constitutional rights in the US and how that benefits everyone. If we in Canada begin ignoring others’ Constitutional rights because we don’t like how the use them, on what basis will we be able to demand the protection of our own constitutional rights? While respecting those rights we can advocate for better use of them to benefit people and stop similar tragedies.

                That’s why it is so important to mobilize asap those with influence and support them in creating cultural change so that the First Nations can develop the necessary structures to protect children and understand the best decisions by which to do so.

              2. “Except that they’re not caricatured groups, as members of First Nations have a recognized status in Canadian Law and the rights that go with it.”

                In other words, they’re discriminated on the basis of ethnic group, in this case explicitly favouring “their” culture when it clashes with actual medical care. Whether enshrined in law as “diplomatic immunity” – of a sort – or not, in this case at least it’s devaluing individual life for the sake of group-on-group ethnic politics.

                As to your point about our judgement being sound “this time”, what would you point to that wasn’t also used as evidence for the residential school policy?

                I appreciate the practical difficulty, but it is not a moral one. The judge and others had a golden opportunity to apply life-saving medicine here, and turned it down on the basis of group-on-group “respect” which you are defending here. Forgive me, but it sounds dangerously close to saying imperialist guilt can tell J.J. to go die “the right way”. The fact that this is medical endangerment should trump ethnic issues and politics.

                I do not agree with the notion that only FIrst Nations people can convince First Nations people, either. The mere act of separating ethnic groups and granting “credibility” based on ethnic membership is, whatever its practical aspects, a Little People argument that’s racist to the core, and a much more insidious problem than merely trying to get people to use proper medical care.

                Jerry often makes it a point to celebrate the FFRF and how they protect constitutional rights in the US and how that benefits everyone. If we in Canada begin ignoring others’ Constitutional rights because we don’t like how the use them, on what basis will we be able to demand the protection of our own constitutional rights?

                Quite frankly, I am not such a slave to “constitutional rights” that I consider a child’s lifesaving medical care optional. They are political constructs designed to safeguard human welfare. If they can’t even do that, they either need reform or are not worth the paper they’re printed on.

                In any case, I’ve just read the only Act ever invoked in the above case, the Child and Family Services Act, and it is clear that medical intervention trumps parental care in such cases as would threaten the child’s safety and welfare. Exceptionalism in this case will result, first and foremost, in child safety and welfare becoming second to identity politics. There’s no point invoking constitutional rights if you’re only going to apply them some of the time.

                I have no objection to a wider policy of improved healthcare education and turning over an imperialist leaf in favour of better treatment, but medicine has no truck with politics, and if we agree our own children cannot be so exempted, there shouldn’t be the double standards Jerry and others have repeatedly pointed out.

            2. I do agree that more widespread education should be allowed, but then equal access to public services should be the default case anyway. I’d like to know how many other Canadians fare on the questions of educational attainment, medical knowledge and trust, income, income inequality, etc.

          2. The not-withstanding clause might apply – in both directions. Also there’s the *other* trump to rights (or the other way around!) in Canada: the peace, order and good government clause.

            (Disclaimer: IANAL.)

        2. The Charter grants the First Nations rights to manage themselves and I’m guessing the court is saying this includes child rearing and medicine.

          In many ways, First Nations aren’t so much Canadians as they are dual-citizens of Canada and their First Nation, and it’s that nation which has the right & responsibility to set laws. It’s not merely a question of cultural sensitivity or something mushy like that.

          1. That makes the situation even worse. At least if it was “merely a question of cultural sensitivity”, the medical issue could trump this kind of unofficial racism by appealing to legal requirements. If, however, the Law uses special status as an excuse to deny proper medical care, unofficial racism becomes official and therefore a bigger obstacle to getting medicine done.

            1. If, however, the Law uses special status as an excuse to deny proper medical care, unofficial racism becomes official and therefore a bigger obstacle to getting medicine done.

              It’s not so much that the law is denying proper medical care as it is that the determination of proper medical care is not made by the Federal or Provincial Governments, but by the First Nations.

              The provinces & feds have been working to provide better access to medical care to the First Nations. It’s a difficult issue. It’s not merely racism (though that’s doubtless a factor) but many First Nations communities are small and remote, sometimes only accessible by air. Even routine medical which may be a simple matter of walking a GP or medi-clinic for people in Vancouver or Toronto will require arranging for a helicopter and a hotel for some First Nations. The different governments have been doing some work to provide this so even indigent people in remote villages can get medical care but there are still a lot of barriers. At the moment, I think these are the far more serious and wide-spread obstacles, while cases of medical neglect/mistreatment/quackery are still individual choices (or whatever we call it when parents foists it on children) rather than the default treatment a la Mao Zedong’s Barefoot Doctors.

              1. But then how do you account for the OP, in which:

                “Judge Getin Edward, who will have blood on his hands if J. J. dies, ruled against McMaster Children’s Hospital, who wanted to force the child to continue chemotherapy.” This turning down was on First Nation cultural grounds, mind, not legal and jurisdiction ones. The judge’s reasoning is explicitly “respect” for “culture”.

                “And the reporter has a few tart words about this treatment: ‘As a First Nations person myself, I’m confident I can say that none of my ancestors abided by a strict raw vegan diet, or took high doses of vitamins intravenously or underwent cold laser technology. Regardless, her mother said Hippocrates was in line with her belief in natural medicine’.” Which puts the lie to the judge’s own claim to have based his decision on cultural grounds. As others have pointed out, you don’t invoke traditional medicine and then use modern quackery.

                “J. J.’s last hope is the Brant Children’s Aid Society, which has refused to intervene twice when J. J. and her predecessor Makayla Sault were removed from chemotherapy. In fact, they praised the judge’s decision… Both times, after just a few days investigating, they determined that despite the life-threatening illness that would almost surely result in death without treatment, these girls were not in need of his protection…”

                The only time legal restriction is mentioned is when Koster says “it was the Child and Family Services Act that required them to ‘respect First Nations culture’.” It says no such thing. I’ve just looked up that Act here:

                What the Act repeatedly says is that society may intervene on medical grounds. Passages like this are repeated often:

                PART III
                CHILD PROTECTION
                Child in need of protection
                (2) A child is in need of protection where,
                (e) the child requires medical treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm or suffering and the child’s parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, the treatment;

                Whether the issues you raise are broader issues worthy of attention, they’re irrelevant here. This is merely a question of cultural sensitivity. Air transport and hotel arrangements aren’t the problem in J.J.’s case. The problem is a fusion of cultural cringing and moral cowardice.

      2. Do you think that First Nations people will ultimately regret having chosen such an outrageous and reprehensible way to assert their rights? I would guess that powerful interests would dearly love to undermine their claim to any “special relationship to their land and their resources” and welcome episodes like these to weaken other Canadians’ support for their claims.

        1. I think JJ’s mom will regret her decision if she doesn’t change her mind. Makayla’s parents were also Fundamentalist Christians but JJ’s mom doesn’t seem to be influenced that way. I think she was manipulated by HHI when she was at her most vulnerable. I think I did hear a news report months ago where she said something to the effect that she wouldn’t completely reject chemo. I hope someone can convince her.

          As for aboriginals, their opinions are as diverse as atheist ones. I’m sure there are many that think these decisions were silly and some that thought they were great decisions and then still more that didn’t consider the decision and simply reacted to a perceived violation of their rights.

          I really hope it doesn’t come to regrets.

  14. 99% of people are sheep that will willingly let themselves be led to slaughter and 10% are the forward thinkers that get held back by the majority. Also, we claim to be such an advanced species but fail to understand the concepts of Natural Selection. We have 7 billion of one animal overrunning a stressed ecosystem, and so many bleeding hearts using false morality to explain it. I shudder to think of the drastic measures that the governments will take when the number is at 12 or 14 billion and people are killing each other OVER HERE for thin resources. My point; nature is trying, nay working overtime, to check the proliferation of the human animal and we keep going against the natural order of things. There is no actual moral standard that can justify what we are doing, the foolish must be left to their own devices at some point.

  15. There is a huge mistrust of European culture in the aboriginal population. That said, it mystifies me that this white snake oil salesman is acceptable.

    There are of course treaty agreements etc that apply. However this hasn’t stopped the government and judiciary from ignoring them up to now many times.

    I have written about this before and it seems to come down to a kind of covert racism. I think that the judge and authorities would rather not ‘go to all the trouble for a native girl’ so they cloak themselves in what’s expedient to get them off the hook and claim they are merely honoring the culture. This is the only explanation that works for me.

    This also applies to the Quebec government allowing orthodox Jews to put their children into unlicensed Torah schools where they learn nothing but how to recite prayers all day.

  16. There is only place with which I might disagree with you, Jerry, and that’s here:

    What kind of “love” is that, though? I’m prepared to believe that the mother believes she loves her daughter, but its akin to the kind of love that men profess for their wives before they beat them. What mother would learn that her daughter has a greater-than-90% chance of cure with chemotherapy, and none with alternative medicine, and yet still choose the latter? It’s a mindset that baffles me completely.

    Rather than try to decide whether J.J.’s mother’s love is genuine, I think it quite possible, probable even, that the mother doesn’t really accept “that her daughter has a greater-than-90% chance of cure with chemotherapy, and none with alternative medicine”. I think it more likely that she wants to believe to Florida quacks. are a lot of people who think they can choose their own version reality, irrespective of any evidence you might put in front of them. But then, I’m sure that I’m not telling you, of all people, anything new in saying that.

    1. You know, I think hospitals need to do a better job educating people about why alternative treatments are bad. Right now, they recommend your treatment based on your case and give you the survival/recurrence statistics. I think they need to start addressing alternative medicine.

  17. I looked up cold laser treatments online. I learned that it is mainly a lower-energy laser that does not ablate tissue, but that what is called a cold laser runs a wide range of energies.
    Uses include temporary treatment of arthritis and nerve pain, but at most that is temporary and if too weak it is not effective even for that.
    It can also be used to stimulate an area (I read it as increasing inflammation) in order to speed up healing.
    Coincidentally, I saw a travelogue TV show that visited a hospital for injured sea turtles. Some turtles get these non-healing ulcers on their skin, but these are treated effectively with a cold laser. That was one case where I suppose this application is effective and also minimally invasive so it is safe.
    For treating leukemia? Bollocks.

  18. And here is a case that is similar-but-different. (Could almost be said to be the opposite of JJ’s case).

    A father in Australia has been arrested and separated from his daughter for supplementing her chemo with medical marijuana. Note that he didn’t stop the chemo, his hideous offence was to supply her with the Killer Weed. As such the situation is mot related to ‘cultural sensitivity’ but to the War on Some Drugs.

    Once again the authorities have screwed up – this time by poking their noses in where they should have kept out of it.

  19. Judge Getin Edward, who will have blood on his hands if J. J. dies…

    Little chance of an if here by all accounts. The judge has condemned the child to death. The decision should be appealed, if possible. If not possbile then Canada should take action to protect the lives of all its children.

    1. That is the single appalling aspect of this case, IMHO. An appeal should definitely have been filed, by the hospital. But they didn’t, and I don’t know if there is anyone who has standing to file an appeal instead. Judges can make bad decisions, they’re only human. The appeals process is there to mitigate the damages of any such decisions.

      I and several other people I know sent emails to the hospital administration urging them to appeal the decision. I received no response. There is enough blame to go around here, but to my mind the lion’s share rests with the hospital, because they had the most responsibility here and squandered the most opportunities to change the outcome of these cases.

      1. Why blame the hospital? Why not blame the idiot parents and the Florida con-man who are really the cause of this? Just how much are the hospital supposed to do to protect patients from themselves (or in this case, their supposed guardians)? The hospital’s primary job is surely to treat those patients who want treatment, as best they can with the funds available. How much of their resources are they supposed to waste making lawyers richer?

  20. I see that most commenters have cottoned on to the fact that this isn’t your usual case about respecting religion, even at the cost of a young life. It’s much more to do with the legal tangle Canada finds itself in when trying to do the right thing with indigenous people. About time, you might say, given the undoubted abuses they were subjected to in the past, and they still live lives that are poorer, shorter and unhealthier than other Canadians. It’s true that Canadian governments have never made any serious attempts at genocide (unlike certain other nations….) but that’s small comfort. Unfortunately efforts to give special status to natives have led to a culture of dependency akin to the welfare trap. We are in an Uncanny Valley between the extremes of extermination and full equality, and neither party is happy about it. It is beyond time we admitted the best possible thing to do for native people is to give them completely equal treatment in terms of rights and responsibilities, but the sticking point will be reluctance to give up the special treatment and financial benefits that come from possession of a Status Card. I don’t think there’s much to be said against treating people equally, by treating them as responsible adults and not patronising and infantilising them, but saying that in itself moves one out onto some pretty thin and supposedly racist ice, among the bien pensant of Canada. Since treaties between the federal government and numerous bands are involved, changing this would involve renegotiating all of them, or tyrannically imposing change, which would hardly be a popular or easily defended political choice, and would certainly lead to civil unrest.
    Against this background of guilt, resentment and dependence, we have the case of J.J. (and by the precedent set, that of Makayla), vastly complicated by the murkiness of questions of jurisdiction. Child protection is generally a provincial and not a federal responsibility, but as stated in a post above is something that native people would prefer to keep in house, even though most lack any formal structure for it. These kids are caught between two stools as the saying goes; they cannot legally be helped by the one side, and the other would rather they died than sacrifice any of their jealousy guarded rights. It means both sides have failed to protect her because they have put their own interests in front of hers, and it stinks.
    Justice Gethin Edwards is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve (as is J.J.) and that probably explains his marked respect for the native point of view. Positing “Maybe First Nations culture doesn’t require every child to be treated with chemotherapy and to survive for that culture to have value” is quite a remarkable thing: one that wouldn’t stand coming from anyone except a lawyer—it’s just so wrong-headed to everyone else. Native judge or not, however, his decision isn’t so very crazy when seen against the confused legal background. That doesn’t mean it was right, it means the laws have to be clarified and improved, and I don’t think there is the will on either side to actually tackle it. That’s another tragedy here, and one that will claim more lives.

    1. That’s a very helpful post.

      What a sorry mess. Seems to me the two cultures need their heads to be banged together. Pride, guilt and other stuff is leading to both cultures saying this child’s life isn’t worth saving.

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