Child Welfare (1-5): Current Problems

Government and Institution Issues

May 5, 2022


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.”

June 15, 2020


Birth Alerts

CTV News – The Province of Manitoba has announced it will end the controversial practice of birth alerts on June 30, 2020 and will instead refer vulnerable mothers and their children to social services and programs. Under the new system, Stefanson said Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) agencies will now be able to refer more women to programs, which will allow for the shift away from the birth alerts. The province announced it is investing $400,000 to double the capacity of the Mount Carmel Clinic’s Mothering Project (Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe) which helps connect vulnerable mothers with services and programs to support health and wellness for themselves and their children.

March 28, 2020


Birth Alerts

Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stephanson announced that there will be a delay in ending the controversial Birth Alert practice due to COVID-19. On Jan. 31, 2020, the government had announced that child welfare and public health systems in Manitoba will no longer issue birth alerts for high-risk expectant mothers as of April 1, 2020. In Manitoba, 282 infants under four days old were taken into care in 2017-2018. Roughly 90 per cent of children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels stated: ”Today, I stand with our southern First Nation CFS service providers as we turn the page and begin to implement a culturally-appropriate alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice, beginning on April 1, 2020.” In September of 2019, the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit issued a Directive to the Southern First Nations Network of Care (SFNNC) to develop a culturally-appropriate and safe alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice.

February 22, 2019


Child Welfare Funding Objections

The government of Manitoba met with the Indigenous Leadership Council (Manitoba Métis Federation, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) for first time in over two years despite a previous commitment to meet every quarter. The heads of the Indigenous Leadership Council met again with Minister of Families Heather Stefanson on Apr. 3, 2019 over concerns with the province’s block funding for child welfare that is still based on the old funding formula that rewards removing children from homes. There is no room in this block funding for prevention, no support to keep our families together. Right now, the proposed changes amount to $41.66 a month or a $1.39 per day for each child. Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand

By relying on the federal Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) program to offset maintenance costs, the province is forcing our children to pay for their own care.” Under the federal government, the Children’s Special Allowance program is administered on a per-child basis and is equivalent to the combined maximum of the Canada Child Benefit (CBA) and Child Disability Benefit (CDB). These payments are meant for children in care. However, Manitoba is reducing child maintenance against the CSA funding. The Indigenous Leadership Council stands united in the fight for our children and families.”

April 9, 2021


Cuts to Child Welfare Budgets

Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) – criticized the 2021 provincial budget cuts for foster care and child protection, with the budget dropping below $500 million for the first time in four years. The province claims that efficiencies are the reason for the decreasing budget, but for too long, children in care, 90% of whom are Indigenous, have received inadequate support and investments from the province.

“I’m completely astounded that the provincial government is making cuts to children in care at this time,” stated Deborah Smith, Chair of the Chiefs’ Standing Committee on Child Welfare and Chief of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. “They already illegally claw back the Children’s Special Allowance payments, money that comes from the federal government meant for children in care, in order to balance the budget. Now they are further undermining these children’s wellbeing and future opportunities by cutting the budget to its lowest in years.”

September 25, 2019

Fed. Govt., ON

Deaths of Indigenous Children in Child Welfare

72 Indigenous children connected to child welfare died in northern Ontario, where three Indigenous agencies covering most of the territory were underfunded approximately $400 million over a five-year period. The number of deaths jumps to 102 Indigenous children when looking at the entire province between 2013 to 2017. Almost half of the deaths, 48 in total, happened in the two years it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond to multiple orders made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that first found Canada guilty of purposely underfunding on-reserve child welfare in its historic decision on Jan. 26, 2016.

Suicide = 38; Accident = 24; Undetermined = 22; Natural = 17; Homicide = 1 (APTN)

But while the federal government may be the bagman, funding at least 93 per cent of on-reserve child welfare, the Ontario government created the system where these children died and provides the law within which the child welfare agencies operate. It’s a system that has been found to be a complete failure over and over up until just last year when the chief coroner of Ontario released a special report into the deaths of 12 children who died in care, eight of whom were Indigenous. During the five-year period between 2013 and 2017 the coroner lists 541 deaths involving child welfare and 102 were Indigenous. Indigenous people represent less than three per cent of Ontario’s population.

Safe with Intervention” – Report of the Expert Panel on the deaths of Children and Youth in residential Placements September 2018. Office of the Chief Coroner

To the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario:

  1. Immediately provide equitable, culturally and spiritually safe and relevant services to Indigenous young people, families and communities in Ontario.

To the Ministries of Children, Community and Social Services, Education, Health and Long-Term Care, and Indigenous Affairs:

  1. Identify and provide a set of core services and support an integrated system of care for young people and their families across a wholistic continuum to every child in Ontario.
  2. Services must include health, mental health and wellbeing, education, recreation, child care, children’s mental health, early intervention services, prevention services and developmental services. Service provision should be geared to the needs and intensity of needs, of each young person and family.
  3. Develop a wholistic approach to the identification of, service planning for and service provision to high-risk young people (with or without child welfare involvement) that supports continuity of care to age 21 years.
  4. Strengthen accountability and opportunities for continuous improvement of the systems of care through measurement, evaluation and public reporting.

To the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services:

  1. Immediately enhance the quality and availability of placements for young people in care.

April 19, 2022

City of Montreal, QC

Indigenous Youth Care in Montreal

NationTalk: Exactly six months after it asked the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to launch an inquiry on its own initiative into systemic racism in employment and service delivery at Batshaw Youth and Family Centers, the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) still has not received any response.

The silence is treated as the Commission’s failure to live up to its national commitment on Reconciliation and the Viens Commission’s calls to action on access to justice for Indigenous people. Last week, NWSM called on Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafrenière and the Minister responsible for Youth Protection, Lionel Carmant, to intervene.

On October 19, 2021, NWSM in cooperation with CRARR asked that the Commission examine barriers to the equitable representation of Indigenous people in all job categories at Batshaw and the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, which manages Batshaw. NWSM has been concerned about staffing practices that discriminate against Indigenous people, such as filling designated Indigenous positions with non-Indigenous people, and job requirements that exclude Indigenous candidates.

NWSM also asks that the Commission examine systemic racism in services for Indigenous families at Batshaw, including problems with accurate data collection on Indigenous status resulting in misidentification of Indigenous clients; racial profiling of Indigenous children and mothers, and perpetual lack of culturally adapted services.

In November, NSWM’s request received official support from Quebec Native Women and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL). In fact, AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard wrote to the Commission Chair Philippe-André Tessier himself in support of the request.

Six months later, the Commission has yet to respond. In the meantime, other incidents involving Batshaw’s treatment of Indigenous children continue to raise concerns.

Despite CRARR’s request for an update on March 17, 2022, the Commission has never replied.

November 19, 2019


Indigenous Youth Care in Montréal

APTN: Release of “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Child Welfare Services for indigenous clientele living in Montreal” presents a scathing analysis of Indigenous youth care in the Montreal area. Assembled over three years by stakeholders from the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, Concordia University, Rising Sun Daycare, and the Youth Department of the public health network, Centre Integre Universitaire de Sante et de Services Sociaux Ouest de l’ile de Montreal (CIUSSS-ODIM), the goal of the project was to “gain a better understanding of the ways Indigenous children and families are responded to by the child welfare system in Montreal.” Some of the issues identified in the report include:

  • Children from Nunavik were told to stop speaking in Inuktitut
  • all Inuit children were placed with non-Indigenous foster families
  • apprehended children wished to remain in contact with their family but were denied access by social workers or foster families.
  • Children removed from home are not offered any emotional support and siblings are often denied contact or access to each other
  • Foster families lack of knowledge and sensitization has resulted in racist comments and prejudice towards the children’s parents

At the time of the report’s publication, Batshaw “did not employ any Indigenous people.” Of the health network’s estimated 10,000 employees, there are less than 10 Indigenous employees. Even the network’s sole “Indigenous liaison” is non-Indigenous.

The “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” report identifies 22 Recommendations under the following themes:

  1. Education for Non-Indigenous Staff, Leaders and Decision-Makers (3 aligned with 8 Viens Commission Calls for Action)
  2. Representations (7 aligned with 4 Viens Commission Calls to Action)
  3. Policy Level Changes (12 aligned with 10 Viens Commission Calls to Action)
  4. CIUSSS-ODIM is to deliver an annual progress report with the first report due in Dec 15, 2020

May 3, 2021


Laurent Commission Final Report

The Special Commission on the Rights of the Child and Youth Protection (Laurent Commission), released their Final Report. The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) would like to thank the commissioners, …for their openness to including a chapter dedicated to First Nations and Inuit and recommending changes to Quebec legislation based on the needs expressed during the hearings. However, the time has come for our nations to determine the future and wellness of our families and children through child and family services that are designed and administered by our own governments. “For a long time, Canada and Quebec have acted as if they knew better than us for what was good for our people. Clearly, they were wrong. For example, data shows that First Nations children are six times more likely than non-Indigenous children to have their security or their development deemed by the youth protection system to be compromised. Thanks to An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (Bill C-92), we have the opportunity to regain control over our lives, and that’s exactly what we intend to do,” said Derek Montour, President of the FNQLHSSC Board of Directors.

“We welcome the efforts of the Laurent Commission on improving the application of the Quebec Youth Protection Act but our primary focus, as First Nations Chiefs, will be to continue focusing our efforts on supporting First Nations jurisdictions exercising their inherent rights in child and family services, which includes legislative authority in relation to those services and authority to administer and enforce laws made under that legislative authority,” continued Richard O’Bomsawin, Chief of Odanak, political representative of the regional Committee of Experts and member of the Chiefs Committee on Child and Family Services and Self-Determination.

“First Nations have the right to self-determination, including the inherent right to self-government, which includes jurisdiction over child and family services. We reiterate that we will never accept that our rights are subordinated to those of another people, especially when it comes to the wellness of our children, youth and families. We believe that reforming the legislative framework for youth protection in Quebec, in a complementary fashion with and in support of the governance and laws of the First Nations, is a fundamental matter. We are counting on the full cooperation of the Government of Quebec in this regard,” concluded the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

February 12, 2020


Laurent Commission Final Report

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) – presented a joint brief to the Laurent Commission (Special Commission on the Rights of Children and Youth Protection) aimed in particular at reaffirming the rights of First Nations to decide on the future and education of their children. The two organizations made recommendations that affect Act C-92, Bill 31, which aims to authorize the communication of personal information concerning certain missing or deceased Aboriginal children to their families, and the Youth Protection Act (YPA). The AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC have reiterated their constitutional right to manage family support and youth protection services, according to Act C-92, and are asking the Government of Quebec to withdraw its dispute and negotiate coordination agreements in good faith with First Nations governments and Canada. With regard to the YPA, they are also calling for:

Indigenous children to be exempted from the application of the maximum periods of foster care and
that the regulation on financial assistance to promote the adoption and tutorship of a child be amended.
More generally, the two organizations recommend that Quebec implement measures that respond appropriately to the calls for justice of the “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” and the calls to action of the “Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec“.

April 30, 2021


Report on Child Abuse and Neglect

“Mashkiwenmi-daa Noojimowin: Let’s Have Strong Minds for the Healing” is the first report of the First Nations Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect-2018 (FNOIS-2018). Objectives and Scope

The primary objective of the OIS- 2018 is to provide reliable estimates of the scope and characteristics of child abuse and neglect investigated by child welfare services in Ontario in 2018. Specifically, the FNOIS-2018 is designed to:

  1. examine the rate of incidence and characteristics of investigations involving First Nations children and families compared to non-Indigenous children and families;
  2. determine rates of investigated and substantiated physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to intimate partner violence as well as multiple forms of maltreatment;
  3. investigate the severity of maltreatment as measured by forms of maltreatment, duration, and physical and emotional harm;
  4. examine selected determinants of health that may be associated with maltreatment; and
  5. monitor short-term investigation outcomes, including substantiation rates, out-of-home placement, and use of child welfare court.

Comparison between First Nations and non-Indigenous:

  • child welfare investigations approximately three times more likely for a First Nations child
  • Greater incidence of physical abuse (.5x), sexual abuse (3x), neglect (4.5x), emotional maltreatment (2x),
  • exposure to intimate partner violence (3x) , risk of future maltreatment investigation (3.5x)
  • Transfers to ongoing services: 6 x greater
  • Out-of-home placement is 12.4 x greater
  • Household risk factors: Social Assistance, Employment or other benefit (2 x);

The differences in rates between First Nations and non-Indigenous children and investigations must be understood in the context of understanding the impact of colonialism and the resulting trauma to children, families and communities.’s%20Have%20Strong%20Minds%20For%20The%20Healing_First%20Nations%20Ontario%20Incidence%20Study%20Of%20Reported%20Child%20Abuse%20And%20Neglect%202018.pdf