Jordan's Principle | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jordan's Principle

Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle that ensures First Nations children can access the same public services as other children in Canada. Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy who died at the age of five after waiting for home-based care that was approved when he was two but never arrived because of a financial dispute between the federal and provincial governments. Jordan’s Principle was put in place to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.

This logo represents Jordan's Principle.


Jordan’s Principle is an initiative to ensure that​ First Nations children who require support to meet a health, education or social need — as recommended by a professional — can access those services in the same ways as other children in Canada. Jordan’s Principle passed unanimously in the​ House of Commons in December 2007.

According to the federal government, from July 2016 to March 2020, “more than 572,000 products, services and supports were approved for First Nations children under Jordan's Principle.”

Jordan River Anderson

Jordan’s Principle came into effect after the tragic story of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Born with complex medical needs, Jordan received special treatment in a ​Winnipeg hospital for over two years. After doctors cleared him to return to his ​reserve, disputes over which level of government would pay for the in-home care — ​federal or ​ provincial — meant Jordan was forced to spend over two more years in Winnipeg. He died in 2005 at the age of five in the hospital.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) found that the Government of Canada applied a limited and discriminatory definition of the principle. It ordered the government to implement the full scope and meaning of Jordan’s Principle. Since then, the CHRT has issued other non-compliance orders to the federal government. (See also Canadian Human Rights Act.)

Every year on May 10th, Bear Witness Day honours the memory of Jordan River Anderson. The name “Bear Witness” was inspired by the teddy bear known as Spirit Bear, who has become a symbol for the children affected by 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case.

On May 10th, Bear Witness Day, children across Canada are asked to hold “teddy bear parties” to start a conversation about Jordan’s Principle.


The case of Jordan River Anderson demonstrates how proper access to health care and public services is a serious concern in Indigenous communities. Jordan’s Principle seeks to ensure First Nations children get the support they require. (See also Health of Indigenous Peoples and Social Conditions of Indigenous Peoples.)

Indigenous Peoples Collection

Indigenous Perspectives Education Guide

Further Reading

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