Pruden v Manitoba, 2020 MBHR 6

The Human Rights Adjudication Panel allowed in part the complaint of an Anishinaabe child and his mother alleging government departments denied them health care and related services on the basis of ancestry. Various healthcare services made available to other Manitobans were either denied or delayed based on the Government of Manitoba’s position that they were the responsibility of the federal government. This was obvious adverse treatment and concurrent federal jurisdiction over health care for First Nations did not provide a reasonable justification for discriminatory treatment. 

Indigenous Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

An Anishinaabe child and his mother complain that government departments have denied them health care and related services on the basis of their ancestry. At the time of the hearing, the complainant Alfred Pruden [“Dewey”] was a 16- year-old Anishinaabe boy. Dewey resided in Pinaymootang First Nation with his mother, the complainant Ms Harriet Sumner-Pruden, and his father.

Dewey was born with many disabilities, including a progressive neurological disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome. He was prone to seizures during the initial years of his life, requiring him to take many medications. Eventually, Dewey underwent brain surgery when he was four in the hope that the procedure would address his seizures. Instead, he developed new problems: he lost his ability to speak even the very few words that he had previously used; glaucoma led to vision loss; his motor skills were impaired; his overall development was significantly delayed; and, he developed an autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The respondent offered health care and related services to Manitobans afflicted with such conditions, and those services even extended to the parents of children like Dewey. However, the respondent did not make those health care and related services available to Dewey and his mother in the same way that many other Manitobans received them. Sometimes, the respondent simply denied some services. In other instances, services were provided but delayed. In yet more circumstances, services were provided but then intermittently withdrawn. The respondent informed Dewey’s parents that its offering of health care and related services reflected the constitutional division of powers, whereby the federal government was responsible for the provision of health care and related services to Aboriginal individuals living in First Nation communities.

As a result, Ms Sumner-Pruden filed a human rights complaint on behalf of Dewey and in her own right. The complaint alleges that the Manitoba Government had discriminated against Dewey and Ms Sumner-Pruden in the provision of health care and related services on the basis of their Anishinaabe ancestry and Dewey’s disability. Moreover, the complaint asserted that the discrimination had occurred without any bona fide and reasonable cause.

The respondent has discriminated against the complainants. There is no dispute among the parties that Dewey and his mother Ms Sumner-Pruden are Anishinaabe. Their ancestry is a characteristic that the Human Rights Code [“Code”] expressly protects at s 9(2)(a). It is equally accepted that Dewey has a physical and mental disability, which falls within s 9(2)(l) of the Code’s protected characteristics. The same problems did not afflict neighbouring non-First Nations communities, and those residents enjoyed health care and related services without denial, delay, or interruption. As a result, the complainants suffered treatment that was obviously adverse.

The complaint is allowed in part. Taking into account the spectrum of Manitoba awards for injury to dignity, feelings, or self-respect, the adjudication panel awards $30,000.00 to Dewey and $12,500.00 to Ms Sumner-Pruden. The respondent shall hereafter provide health care and related services to the complainants without regard to the fact that they are Anishinaabe individuals who reside in a First Nation community.

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