Indigenous Success Stories

Child Welfare (1-5)

Cowassess First Nation

January 4, 2022

Toronto Star – Last March, Cowessess residents ratified the Miyo Pimatisowin Act, which sets out the principles and components of their own child and family services program.
They were the first First Nation to get as far as establishing the rules for their own program, after Bill C-92, which became federal law in 2019, first gave them that option. The new plan included handling case files, running treatment programs and, potentially, bringing some children currently in care back home to the community.
The federal government had very little input into the Miyo Pimatisowin Act, and now Chief Cadmus Delorme says he hopes other nations can learn from their experience. Each nation is different, and will have their own way of addressing intergenerational trauma, but Cowessess has helped others figure out how to craft their own laws and rules, he says.
“Not only is Cowessess exiting the child welfare system under the provinces, but we also created our own judicial system to oversee appeals and to make sure that everything is fair.”
Last July, a co-ordination and funding agreement worth $38 million over two years was finalized, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Cowessess powwow grounds.
Cowessess began work on the Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge in April, and since then leadership says 19 children who were in government care have been returned to the First Nation, where they are in the care of family with supports. Nine children in care in Saskatchewan with roots in Cowessess have been introduced to family and community.
In terms of the expense of creating a new program, Delorme compares it to a rocket launch — you need a lot of fuel to get off the ground, but once you get to orbit, you don’t need quite so much, he says.
So while that first chunk of funding will get them through the first two years, leadership is already talking to the federal government and the province about the years after that, and is hopeful some of the money announced Tuesday will come into play.
The community has already heard from First Nations across the country, he says.
“Sometimes the fear of the unknown will drive that this isn’t a good idea,” he says. “So we are very open to sharing the success.”