The Assembly of First Nations will file a human rights complaint against the federal government over Ottawa’s “systemic discrimination” in underfunding Aboriginal child-welfare services.

“Our children need action now, so I am announcing that we are putting governments on notice that a lack of action should be viewed as putting children at risk,” AFN Chief Phil Fontaine said to the International Congress on Ethics in Gatineau, Quebec, while announcing the complaint on February 5.

Fontaine points to statistics showing that one in 10 aboriginal children are in foster care, compared to only one in 200 nonaboriginal children. The AFN also said that child-welfare agencies for First Nations get 22 per cent less money than do those that deal with non-aboriginal children. About 27,000 Aboriginal kids are currently in foster care.

“Such systemic discrimination must end,” Fontaine said. “This situation for children in care must end. I have always said that I would rather negotiate than litigate or demonstrate. But if this is the only way to bring attention and action to the situation, so be it.”

The human-rights complaint is expected to be filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission this month.