Child Welfare (1-5): Current Problems

AB


January 10, 2022


Bill C-92

Alberta opposition to Bill C-92

Toronto Star – A First Nation in Alberta says it’s been nearly three months since it was supposed to take legal control of its own child welfare but the provincial government won’t recognize the arrangement made possible by federal legislation. “(Alberta) won’t recognize it at all. They won’t sign co-ordination agreements,” said Darin Keewatin, executive director of Asikiw Mostos O’pikinawasiwin Society, a child welfare organization for the Louis Bull Tribe.

The tribe asked to enter an agreement with Alberta and Canada in October 2020 under a federal law that was proposed in Bill C-92 and was enacted the previous year. It allows First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to have jurisdiction over child and family services. The law says a three-party agreement should be reached within a year of a request. If an agreement has not been reached, but reasonable efforts were made, the child welfare laws designed by the Indigenous group come into play and supersede provincial or territorial ones.
Louis Bull Tribe’s law came into effect in October, but Keewatin said Alberta is not co-operating. “As soon as a tribe steps up to take responsibility and case manage their children, suddenly the ministry is saying, ‘Oh no, That’s not going to happen,’ ” he said.

Louis Bull’s law outlines the tribe’s protection and prevention services. That means cases involving Louis Bull children and families should be handed over to the society. Keewatin said the province hasn’t transferred all those cases. The province took control of talks from the beginning instead of respecting the community’s authority, he said. There were certain parts of the co-ordination agreement the province wanted resolved before signing it, he added.

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said talks have not reached a standstill yet, but they will if Alberta “is resolute in their opposition.” “I will continue to use every tool in my tool box to work with my provincial counterparts to help them move toward this model of self-determination.”
Criticism at the provincial level started before the federal legislation passed. Quebec opposed the law and filed a constitutional challenge that argued the law encroached on the province’s jurisdiction. Alberta had expressed concerns relating to liability, oversight and sharing of data.

As of March 2021, 71 per cent of children and youth receiving services in care were Indigenous despite only making up 10 per cent of the child population in Alberta.


May 5, 2022


Government and Institution Issues

All funding to support at-risk Indigenous families awarded to non-Indigenous agency

Toronto Star (Windspeaker): After 12 years of successfully supporting at-risk Indigenous families in the Grande Prairie area who have interactions with Alberta’s child welfare system, Mamewpitaw has not received the provincial dollars to keep operating. Worse than that, says Grande Prairie Friendship Centre (GPFC) president Leonard Auger, the money to support Indigenous families has gone to a non-Indigenous organization. 

Mamewpitaw, operated by the GPFC, offered culturally focused intervention support and re-unification programs for Indigenous families at risk. It was the first time GPFC had to respond to a request for proposals to get funding for Mamewpitawn. In previous years the province had not requested proposals from contract holders for family intervention services, says program coordinator Abby Bourque. 

“There were other friendship centres in the communities that we collaborated with in the writing of this proposal. So they were writing proposals for their communities,” she said. 

Proposals went forward from Peace River and High Level, with High Level servicing both that community and Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement. While the Mamewpitaw program would have been new to the others, says Bourque, the proposals saw the friendship centres, including Grande Prairie, sharing Elders, land resources and other supports. She stressed that all the friendship centres had built strong relationships in their communities and had strong foundations. 

None of the proposals from the friendship centres were approved. Instead, all of the region’s funding for family intervention services went to PACE, a non-Indigenous organization in Grande Prairie that focuses on sexual assault and trauma.

“Our program was unique in that everything was embedded in culture. Our participants felt like they belonged here. They felt that connection. We used wholistic approaches to healing and to giving them strategies for parenting and stuff, which is going to be that missing component with that other agency because they just aren’t equipped for that,” said Bourque. “We were shocked and surprised and quite honestly heartbroken because we just really believe in the work that we do.” 

Now GPFC is scrambling to access other funding, both federal, through Jordan’s Principle, and provincial. They had applied for $700,000 through Alberta Children’s Services. “Whatever fits into what our vision is, we’ll be providing proposals for,” said Bourque. 

In a news release from GPFC board, Children’s Services was called out for implementing an adjudication process for the Family Intervention Services funding that “did not include Indigenous representation as decision-makers, nor did it address factors and programming necessary for Indigenous people in its scoring criteria.”


March 21, 2019


Bill C-92

Yellowhead Institue Critique of Bill C-92

“Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families” was graded as follows by the Yellowhead Institute of Ryerson University based on analysis by five Indigenous legal scholars. (See also First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Information Brief in C2A # 4)

GRADES:
National Standards: …………………… C
Funding: ……………………………………..F
Accountability: ……………………………D
Jurisdiction: ……………………………….D
Data Collection and Reporting: …..D

Yellowhead Institute Recommendations

National Standards

  • Ensure that standards exist in law so that Indigenous children do not automatically become government wards without significant efforts are made to maintain familial and community care.
  • Require ongoing legal relationships, or at the least, access to children’s family of origin.
    Include strong, mandatory language around BIOC to address judicial bias and overtake any binding precedents in this area.
  • Include “active efforts” or “maximum contact” clauses in relation to Indigenous child welfare with First Nations have not taken over full jurisdiction.
  • A requirement of written documentation of active efforts to find placements according to the priority set out or affidavit evidence from the Indigenous group that there is no available placement.
  • And/or a presumption that an access order with some family or community member and a long-term funding commitment for regular travel back to the community is included as a term of any permanency order.

Funding

  • Attach clear federal funding commitments for First Nations pursuing child welfare jurisdiction.
  • Ensure funding reflects the principle of substantive equality and which also meets the needs and circumstances of children on reserve
  • Ensure off-reserve, Métis, non-status and Inuit children and families are included in budgets, distinct from non-Indigenous children and families.
  • Compel coordination between federal and provincial governments regarding incentives to cooperate and adequately fund Indigenous governing bodies to implement Jordan’s Principle.

Accountability

  • Establish a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with situations where Indigenous groups experience challenges in entering collaboration agreements with Canada and the provinces, in the cases they are required.
  • Create an independent body to hear disputes and make binding decisions on all parties.

Jurisdiction

  • Recognize jurisdiction as a right to self- determination under UNDRIP rather than a s. 35 right.
    Set a clear path out of the existing jurisdictional squabbling between the provincial and federal governments.
  • Revise paramountcy rules so they are clear enough for, and accessible to community members, so that can understand in time sensitive or emergency circumstances.
  • Contain clear conflict of laws principles and processes that give real weight to Indigenous law-making authority and jurisdiction.
  • Address the long-standing issue of services to First Nations children who are residing off-reserve, as well as non-status, Métis and Inuit children.
  • Provide clarity and direction on how the “Best Interests Of the Child” (BIOC) standard will be defined regarding the applicability of laws. At minimum this should clarify a standard for best interests of the Indigenous child— determined by Indigenous legal and community standards—and dictate the application of federal and provincial laws to Indigenous children.
  • Clearly and openly resolve the lack of funding for Indigenous law-making, administration and enforcement as well as funding for the preventative of child and family health.

Data Collecting and Reporting

  • Mandate collection and publication of data along the lines of TRC Call to Action #2
  • Address privacy issues by anonymized and displaying data in aggregate.