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Child Welfare (1-5)

Sts’ailes, frustrated with the feds, signs and funds its own child welfare agreement

February 22, 2024

APTN News: A First Nation in British Columbia First is taking matters into its own hands after what leaders say has been a lack of commitment from the federal government to help them take full jurisdiction over child and family services.

Sts’ailes, a Coast Salish First Nation has been working with Ottawa for years to implement its own child welfare practices after the government passed a law in 2019 that allowed it to do so.

A coordination agreement between the nation, Ottawa and B.C. was set to be formalized last week.

But the First Nation says the federal government hit the pause button instead of following through, so it has decided to start and fund its own program without the formal go-ahead.

Willie Charlie, the lead negotiator for the Sts’ailes agreement, says he was told the last-minute delay on Canada’s side sits with the Finance Department.

Charlie says “colonial, paternalistic, bureaucratic systems” are affecting kids, and the more time that passes, the longer they’ll be stuck in systems that don’t reflect their culture.

On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal law that gives control of child welfare services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis nations is constitutional. In the unanimous decision, the court said the law “protects the well‑being of Indigenous children, youth and families by promoting the delivery of culturally appropriate child and family services and, in so doing, advances the process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

The federal government passed Bill C-92 or An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families in 2019 to give control of child welfare services to individual communities. It came into force on Jan. 1, 2020.

The Supreme Court’s decision said the “overarching purpose has three elements: affirming Indigenous communities’ jurisdiction in relation to child and family services; establishing national standards applicable across Canada; and implementing aspects of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP] in Canadian law.”

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