April 11, 2023
AB, Fed. Govt.
3 First Nations sign agreement with Ottawa, Alberta to take over child welfare
Loon River First Nation, Lubicon First Nation and Peerless Trout First Nation celebrate new agreement
CBC News: Canadian Press – Three northern Alberta First Nations have signed an agreement with the federal and provincial governments to be responsible for their own child welfare systems.
The chiefs of Loon River First Nation, Lubicon First Nation and Peerless Trout First Nation gathered Tuesday with members of their communities and representatives of the federal and provincial governments to celebrate the agreement.
“Today there is hope, hope that we can begin to truly heal intergenerational trauma that has impacted our children for too long,” said Chief Gilbert Okemow of Peerless Trout First Nation, which is about 500 kilometres north of Edmonton. “The current child welfare system just wasn’t designed for the First Nations peoples and it has caused too many children to be removed from their homes, their families, their communities and their culture for far too long. Starting today, we are changing that.”
Chief Ivan Sawan of the nearby Loon River First Nation said it’s a huge step forward for the communities. “I’ve seen the cries with our people, I’ve seen mothers embrace their children,” he said. “Our families struggled so many years. “Today is a brand new day for us.”
Ottawa passed An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families in 2020 with a focus on prevention so families can receive support to remain together.
The agreement signed Tuesday with the three First Nations implements Awaśak Wiyasiwêwin, which is Cree for children’s law, and gives child and family services control and jurisdiction to the First Nations. “We’ve always had our children’s laws before 500 years ago,” said Chief Billy Joe Laboucan of Lubicon First Nation. “Now we have the opportunity with this legislation to be able to go back to those laws so that all of the community raises that child.”
Members of each of the First Nations voted in favour of the move last November.
Gladys Okemow, former chief of Peerless Trout First Nation was appointed Onikanew, a leadership position, in the welfare system. Okemow was a foster parent for over 15 years, and described the fear, and sadness she saw in a lot of children who came and went from her home. “I would hear the children crying under their covers. They would miss their parents, their siblings and their homes. I would comfort them and reassure them that they’re safe and that everything would be OK,” Okemow said.
She said the agreement will prevent many kids from having to entirely leave their communities and the lives and routines they are used to. “We will help the families that are struggling.No, they don’t have to be out there in strangers homes wondering if they’re ever gonna go home. But they will be with us within our nations,” Okemow said.
The agreement includes transferring nearly $150 million over five years to the First Nations from the federal government.
Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said it’s important to return inherent child welfare rights to the First Nations.”It has been taken away from you by successive governments, by at times religious institutions and it’s something that has always been there — the right to take care, control custody of your own children in the right way, preserve the language, the education,” he said.
Miller said it’s the first trilateral agreement in Alberta and one of the first in Canada. Another, he said, was signed Tuesday with a First Nation in Ontario.
“I hope this rhythm continues not only across Alberta, but across the rest of Canada, where it actually needs to go faster and faster,” he said. “I think you are blazing a trail.” Mickey Amery, minister of children’s services in Alberta, said it’s a monumental agreement.
“It’s a great privilege to be here and to join in signing Alberta’s first … trilateral co-ordination agreement,” he said. “This agreement represents a shared path toward true and meaningful reconciliation but most importantly a mutual dedication for the safety and well-being of our children.”
The chiefs said that the agreement will deliver a complete transformation in the services and support for their Nation’s children and families, guided by their own First Nation law and the community’s collective vision for the well-being of their families.
A bilateral agreement was signed between the federal government at Louis Bull Tribe in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, in February. That agreement did not involve the province.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colette Derworiz, Canadian Press
With from Katarina Szulc
October 29, 2022
B.C. gives Indigenous groups control over child welfare
Globe and Mail: British Columbia is overhauling its child-welfare system to ensure First Nations are able to assume complete control over the care of their children.
The move was hailed by Indigenous groups as an important step forward toward recognizing the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government said B.C. will become the first province in Canada to legally recognize the right of Indigenous communities to provide their own child-welfare systems.
The legislation “allows us to develop our own laws and make decisions for our children,” said Mary Teegee, executive director at Carrier Sekani Family Services, in an interview.
The amended legislation also includes a provision for a new Indigenous Child Welfare Director position in the province; the role will have as a goal reducing the number of Indigenous children and youth in care.
The move means the provincial government will no longer have a role in oversight and B.C.’s children’s watchdog can get involved only when invited. How standards of care will be monitored under the new system is unclear.
Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, confirmed that the provincial government will no longer audit or oversee the welfare of children in the care of Indigenous governing bodies. Nor will it investigate deaths of children in their care.
B.C.’s Children’s Representative Jennifer Charlesworth confirmed that her office no longer has jurisdiction to intervene or advocate on behalf of Indigenous children and youth being abused or mistreated by foster parents, group home workers, social workers or other child welfare authorities if they are under the care of Indigenous governing bodies.
Rather, when someone comes forward with an allegation of abuse of an Indigenous child, it would be up to the First Nation providing that child’s care to ask the representative to investigate whether the care the nation is providing is appropriate.
In addition, Ms. Charlesworth said her office will no longer investigate deaths or systemic concerns involving children in the care of Indigenous governing bodies unless invited to do so.
Ms. Charlesworth’s office was established two decades ago after an inquiry into the death of Indigenous toddler Sherry Charlie, who was killed by her great uncle after she was placed in his home by an Indigenous child-care agency under a program aimed at keeping families together. The coroner’s inquest found the program had less stringent standards of care than the province’s foster care program.
Ms. Charlesworth said she is supportive of the changes announced Wednesday. “It is a key step forward in reassertion of jurisdiction by Indigenous peoples over the welfare of their children and youth.”
A Globe and Mail investigation earlier this year into the death of Cree teen Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux found the delegated Indigenous agency responsible for his care failed to meet standards, including that his care be culturally appropriate. A Globe review of Xyolhemeylh’s recent practice audits found a pattern of omission and neglect on a range of metrics, including a failure by social workers to meet regularly with young people in their care or to plan adequately for their care. In some cases, they never met with them at all.
The audits found similar deficiencies across the five largest agencies.
Sarah Rauch, a lawyer for Traevon’s mother, said under the new system, oversight could be provided by the new Indigenous Child Welfare Director. “From my understanding, Indigenous peoples seem much more equipped and willing to share jurisdiction and responsibility than non-Indigenous entities, and oversight is inherent in Indigenous ways of caring for children,” she said.
Ms. Dean did not directly respond to a question about how oversight would be provided under the new system.
First Nations will decide what services are going to be delivered in their communities, the minister said at a news conference on Wednesday. “They will decide the relationship that they want to continue having with the ministry in a positive way on what services they want to continue to have from the ministry or from Indigenous Child Youth and Family Service agencies,” Ms. Dean said.
Four B.C. First Nations are already preparing to assume jurisdiction over child and family services, it was announced Wednesday: Cowichan Tribes, Sts’ailes, Splatsin and Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw. Officials said there are 32 governing bodies comprising 81 First Nations that have received funding to help them move toward this goal.
“The colonial era of the province controlling child welfare must come to an end and this legislation cannot be passed soon enough,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said in a release.
Despite making up 10 per cent of the population in B.C., Indigenous children represent 68 per cent of children and youth in care in the province.
“This is a pivotal shift toward real and meaningful change that respects Indigenous rights and improves services and supports for Indigenous children, youth and families,” Premier John Horgan said in a release.
November 25, 2022
B.C. passes historic legislation to uphold Indigenous jurisdiction over child welfare
NationTalk: VICTORIA – B.C. child and family welfare laws now respect and uphold the inherent rights of Indigenous communities to provide their own child and family services with the passing of new legislation.
The Indigenous Self-Government in Child and Family Services Amendment Act makes B.C. the first jurisdiction in Canada to recognize an inherent right of self-government specifically in provincial legislation, which will help keep Indigenous children and youth safely connected to their families, cultures and communities.
The legislative amendments remove barriers and gaps within provincial legislation, enabling the Province and Indigenous Peoples to collaborate and ensure Indigenous Peoples can govern and provide services based on their own child and family laws.
The new act lays the path for Indigenous Peoples in B.C. to legally assume jurisdiction over child and family services in their communities. Four Indigenous governing bodies in B.C. are already engaged in collaborative discussions with the Province and Canada to exercise their jurisdiction, with more Nations preparing to begin the process.
- recognize the inherent right of self-government as written into section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and provide a pathway for Indigenous Peoples to implement their own Indigenous laws over child and family services in B.C.;
- remove existing barriers and gaps to allow Indigenous governing bodies to exercise direct responsibility for their children and youth under their Indigenous laws in matters related to child protection, custody, guardianship and care; and
- strengthen consultation, co-operation and consent-based decision-making with Indigenous communities about adoption placements for Indigenous children and youth.
In addition, the act creates a new Indigenous child welfare director position within the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The Indigenous child welfare director will provide advice and guidance in relation to child-welfare services and crucial decisions related to Indigenous children and families in B.C., and harmonize Indigenous and provincial laws to work toward improved outcomes for Indigenous children, youth and future generations.
The changes, for which Indigenous Peoples have long-advocated, were made through co-operation and consultation with Indigenous rightsholders, Modern Treaty Nations, Indigenous governing bodies, Métis Nation B.C. and other Indigenous partners, such as the First Nations Leadership Council.
To learn about these changes, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/27668
Ministry of Children and Family Development
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect
April 11, 2023
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug celebrates First Nation-led family law, one of the few in Canada
First Nation just 2nd in Ontario to receive federal funds to operate its own family welfare agency
CBC News: Standing on a stage in a room filled with community members, band councillors and government ministers, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Chief Donny Morris called this an emotional day for his community. “We are taking back how we are raising our children,” Morris said Tuesday.
The First Nation, with roughly 960 people living in the fly-in community 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., is taking back jurisdiction over child and family services with the passage of it own law and creation of its own family welfare agency, called Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Dibenjikewin Onnakonikewin (KIDO). In the local Anishininiimowin language, KIDO means Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Family Law.
“We’re going to be moving forward, and moving forward means everybody has to play a role — chief and council, families, organizations — each and every one of us will come together to make our community go forward to a brighter future, a prosperous community and our children to have stable homes growing up,” Morris said during his speech.
This is just the second First Nation in Ontario — the other is Wabaseemoong Independent Nation, an Ojibway First Nation northwest of Kenora — and seventh across Canada to have its own child and family services law take effect with the full force of federal law, as set out in Bill C-92 regarding Indigenous child welfare authorities.
A co-ordination agreement was signed between KI, Ontario and Canada to set out the official transition of authority over child and family services in the First Nation. As part of the negotiations, the federal government has agreed to provide $93.8 million over four years to support KI in implementing its law. The Ontario government is still negotiating with KI for a funding agreement, according to a news release.
- How First Nations in Alberta are building their own child welfare systems
- Wabaseemoong Independent Nations will have Anishinaabe law on child welfare start in new year
“I didn’t think I would survive just to see this day,” Clara Sainnawap, an elder in the Oji-Cree First Nation, said in Anishininiimowin, with Angus Chapman translating her words into English.
The onaakonikewin (law) officially went into effect on April 1, but work on it within the First Nation has been going on for many years, Samuel McKay told CBC News. McKay was the project manager for the development of KI’s family law.
Elders and community leaders had begun work to draft the law back in 2007, long before the federal government was talking about handing jurisdiction over child and family welfare back to Indigenous communities. At the time, leaders in KI were developing the law based not on federal legislation, but on their inherent right and responsibilities given to them by the Creator to govern their own people, McKay said.
That work was sidetracked when six members of KI’s council, including McKay, were sentenced to six months in jail after they refused to allow mining company Platinex to start drilling on their land, despite a court injunction permitting the company to do so.
Efforts to return to the law picked up in earnest in 2018, McKay said, and was approved after extensive community meetings and consultations.
McKay told CBC News that provincial legislation has always been very focused on protecting the child, but KI’s new law will emphasize supporting the entire family. Elders in the community said this new law must be based on love, forgiveness and respect, and not cause further traumatization to children or the families.
“That’s what KIDO is all about — rebuilding our nation, our families, our children.”
McKay added that the newly formed agency will continue to work alongside Tikinagan Child and Family Services. It’s been providing child welfare services to 30 First Nations across northern Ontario since becoming the first Indigenous-controlled agency to be recognized as a child protection agency in the province in the 1980s.
- Splatsin First Nation pens B.C.’s 1st child welfare agreement with federal government
- Peguis First Nation signs child welfare agreement that chief says marks break in cycle
When federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu rose to speak during the signing ceremony Tuesday, she acknowledged the words of Sainnawap.
“One simple sentence — she’s waited a long time for this day,” Hajdu said of the elder. “That means that she saw for a long time the hurt and harm that families were facing as a result of discriminatory and systemically racist child and family services that tore people apart, that didn’t provide the kinds of supports that families need, that didn’t acknowledge the inherent right of this community to stay whole.”
The minister said the creation of KIDO represents a turning point, that KI is able to reassert their inherent rights and laws, and receive the funding needed to implement that law.
Following the signing ceremony, the KI held a community feast to celebrate the law’s creation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan Turner, Journalist
Logan Turner has been working as a journalist for CBC News, based in Thunder Bay, since graduating from journalism school at UBC in 2020. Born and raised along the north shore of Lake Superior in Robinson-Superior Treaty Territory, Logan covers a range of stories focused on health, justice, Indigenous communities, racism and the environment. You can reach him at email@example.com.
March 24, 2023
Splatsin, Canada and British Columbia sign historic coordination agreement for First Nations children and families
Indigenous Services Canada: First Nations children thrive when they can stay with their families and their communities, surrounded by their culture and language. As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we will continue to work towards self-determination for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
Today, at a ceremony in Enderby, British Columbia, Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas of Splatsin; the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services; and the Honourable Mitzi Dean, BC Minister of Children and Family Development; celebrated the signing of the first coordination agreement in British Columbia, pursuant to the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit, Métis children, youth and families. This agreement supports the ongoing exercise of Splatsin’s jurisdiction of their Child, Family and Community Services under Spallumcheen Indian Band Bylaw #3-1980 and Secwepemc law.
Over the next 10 years, the agreement will transfer $136.2 million to Splatsin to support their ongoing delivery of child and family services grounded in their culture and family systems. Splatsin has taken care of their children and families since time immemorial under Secwepemc law, and has been exercising jurisdiction and protecting Splatsin children under their Bylaw since 1980. Splatsin will continue this work, as they have always done.
This agreement is a historic milestone as it is the first coordination agreement in British Columbia and the fifth agreement in Canada. The coordination agreement addresses the coordination of services, the delivery of emergency services, mechanisms for First Nations children to exercise their rights, and fiscal agreements that are needs-based, sustainable and consistent with the principle of substantive equality. The coordination agreement also establishes funding from the federal and provincial governments to ensure that the necessary financial resources are in place.
By working together, we are making progress towards supporting Indigenous Peoples to determine and implement solutions for their children and families and towards improving the well-being of Indigenous children and youth, their families and communities, and future generations.
“Splatsin has been looking after our children since time immemorial and more formally with our Bylaw since 1980. This high level of responsibility for our children falls not just on the shoulders of leadership, but every Splatsin community member. It takes a community to raise a child and at Splatsin we do our best to live by those words. I raise my hands up to our community and each and every person involved in caring for our most vulnerable children and youth in the past, present and into the future.”
Kukpi7 Doug Thomas
“Splatsin has always known what is best for their children and families, but decades of interference undermined culture, language and family connection. Today, with Splatsin and the province of British Columbia, we signed a historic coordination agreement to ensure Splatsin children and families can thrive, surrounded by language, culture and strong supports. Colonial and racist policies have left decades of intergenerational trauma by pulling families apart, but today is a new chapter in our country that will help with the ongoing healing and strengthening of community for First Nations peoples. Congratulations to everyone involved in this tremendous work that will support the best interests and wellness of Splatsin children and families.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
“We know Splatsin have always been caring for their children, and they have worked tirelessly over the last 40 years to ensure that Splatsin children, youth and families are connected to their culture, community and laws, despite the constraints of the child welfare system. Today, we have witnessed the culmination of that work with the signing of this agreement. I am honoured to join with Splatsin, on their territory, for this beautiful ceremony marking the agreement, the first coordination agreement to be completed in BC. We look forward to the important work ahead together as we coordinate jurisdiction with Splatsin, putting children and youth at the centre of all we do.”
The Honourable Mitzi Dean
BC’s Minister of Children and Family Development
- For most Indigenous children, Child and Family Services are provided under the legislation of the province or territory where the children and families reside.
- On January 1, 2020, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (the Act) came into force. The Act affirms the inherent right to self-government of Indigenous Peoples, which includes jurisdiction over child and family services, provides a pathway for Indigenous communities to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services to Indigenous children.
- In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced over $542 million in funding to advance First Nations, Inuit, and Métis engagement to co-develop the implementation of the Act and to support Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family services systems.
- Through Budget 2021, the Government of Canada invested an additional $73.6 million to be used over four years, starting in 2021−22, for additional resources to implement the Act.
- Through Budget 2022, the Government of Canada invested an additional $87.3 million over three years, starting in 2022−23, to increase capacity building and funding for coordination agreement discussion tables to support the exercise of First Nations, Inuit and Métis jurisdiction in relation to child and family services.
- Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families
- Reducing the number of Indigenous children in care
- Notices and requests related to An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families
- More support to advance reform of services for Indigenous children and families
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Indigenous Services
Indigenous Services Canada
Ken Barnes, MBA
Director of Communications
Government Communications and Public Engagement
BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development