OTTAWA, Nov. 30, 2018 /CNW/ - Today, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, togetherwith Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed, and Métis National Council President Clément Chartier, announced that the Government
Indigenous children represent 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes in Canada. The over-representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation children in the child welfare system is a humanitarian crisis. Indigenous children who have been in care face greater risks of adverse health outcomes, violence and incarceration.
Legislation is an important step toward more comprehensive reform. This announcement is the culmination of intensive engagements throughout this year which focused on identifying ways to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. Currently, Indigenous families are bound by rules and systems that are not reflective of their cultures and identities. The goal of the proposed legislation is to change that. It aims to support Indigenous families to raise their children within their homelands and nations as well as increase efforts to prevent child apprehension where possible and safe to do so.
This broad-based legislation will be inclusive of all Indigenous peoples while respecting a distinctions-based approach. The legislation would affirm inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights as well as affirm principles consistent with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A pillar of the legislation will be the right to self-determination of Indigenous peoples to freely determine their laws, policies and practices in relation to Indigenous child and family services.
Throughout 2018, Indigenous Services engaged with national, regional, and community organizations and governments representing First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, as well as Treaty Nations, self-governing First Nations, provinces and territories, experts and people with lived experience, including Elders, Youth and Women. More than 65 engagement sessions with nearly 2,000 participants were held. The message to the government was that legislation could help to protect the best interests of the child.
"Moving forward with federal legislation on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation child and family services is a vital step toward ensuring Indigenous children are never again forcibly taken from their homes without their parents' consent. Every possible measure should be taken to prevent Indigenous child apprehension and to reunite children with their families. New federal legislation is a powerful tool to support these efforts."
The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.Minister of Indigenous Services
"This is a critical step in supporting the rights and well-being of Indigenous children. The status quo is not acceptable. This proposed legislation will reaffirm the rights of Indigenous children and put in place the much needed supports for communities to ensure that Indigenous children can grow up as proud First Nations, Métis and Inuit with a strong sense of secure personal cultural identity and better health, education and economic outcomes."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
"First Nations are ready to reform child and family services in ways that respect our rights, cultures and family structures. First Nations have been held back for years by outdated laws, and we continue to experience the trauma and loss when children and families are broken apart. Legislation, co-developed with First Nations, is an important step toward addressing the need for reform across the entire system. First Nations are ready to focus on prevention over apprehension, and apply First Nations laws, policies and cultural values that place children at the centre of our Nations."
Perry BellegardeNational Chief, Assembly of First Nations
"Inuit are committed to working constructively and on a distinctions basis towards the co-development of federal child and family welfare legislation to help meaningfully address social inequity in Inuit Nunangat, and across Canada, and ultimately decrease the overrepresentation of Inuit children in care."
Natan ObedPresident, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
"This proposed legislation will provide a new chapter towards increased recognition that we, the Métis Nation, are best placed to nurture and to care for our children. This is an unprecedented initiative that will ensure the survival, dignity and well-being of our families, communities and nation for generations to come".
Clément ChartierPresident, Métis National Council
Date: November 30, 2018
Federal legislation as an important step toward reducing the number of Indigenous children in foster care
The over-representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation children in the child welfare system is a humanitarian crisis. First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation children make up 7.7% of the population under 15, but represent 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes.
Every day, Indigenous children are separated from their parents, families and communities, often due to poverty, poor housing conditions, and inter-generational trauma and culturally biased child welfare practices that result in apprehension. The Government of Canada, together with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation partners, agree that this situation is unacceptable. Urgent action must be taken by all orders of government – federal, provincial, territorial – to support Indigenous families to raise their children within their families, homelands, and nations; to increase efforts to address the root causes of child apprehension; to reunite children with their parents, extended families, and communities and nations. Legislation is one step toward this.
Recognizing and protecting the best interests of the child
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the minimum standards, norms and rights applicable to Indigenous peoples and children. These standards, norms and rights are interconnected, inter-related and interdependent and serve as a framework for reconciliation in child, youth and family services.
The first five Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) relate to child welfare. Call to Action #4 calls "upon the federal government to enact Aboriginal child-welfare legislation that establishes national standards for Aboriginal child apprehension and custody cases and includes principles that:
Also, in 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) ruled that Canada's First Nations Child and Family Services Program was discriminatory and ordered Canada to immediately address the issue. The ruling prompted further discussion on the creation of federal legislation to recognize and affirm Indigenous jurisdiction that is distinctions-based as a way to ensure better care for Indigenous children.
In September 2018, the federal government announced that Inuit children are eligible under the federal Child First Initiative (CFI) program. This followed a commitment made in June 2018, during a meeting of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, to work with Inuit, as well as provinces and territories, to develop a long-term Inuit-specific CFI framework consistent with Inuit rights and self-determination.
Working in cooperation, partnership and mutual respect towards reform
Indigenous peoples driving change
Some of the feedback given to the federal government during these extensive engagement sessions included the need to address principles, including those embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), such as:
Provincial / territorial involvement
A productive and on-going dialogue with provinces and territories has taken place during the summer and early fall, as part of the broad engagement that informed the development of options for federal legislation. Concerted dialogue with provincial and territorial partners on the impacts and on various aspects of implementation of the legislation will remain central to the reform of child and family services. Discussions will continue to take place before the bill is introduced and during the transition and implementation phases of legislation.
Working in partnership on co-developed legislation
In October 2018, Indigenous Services Canada participated in a Reference Group consisting of delegates from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council. The group discussed legislative options to improve circumstances for Indigenous children, youth and families, taking into account reports from the engagement sessions.
Today, together with Indigenous partners, the Government of Canada has committed to introducing legislation to support the well-being of section 35 rights-bearing Aboriginal Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation children and families. The goal of the proposed legislation is to:
Indigenous Services, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis Nation state that they will:
Support for Child and Family Services Co-Developed Legislation
Date: November 30, 2018
"The Saskatoon Tribal Council chiefs have been focused on improving the lives of First Nations children and families and stopping the harm caused by the child welfare system. Our Chiefs went to court to defend our right to protect our children and to keep them connected to our culture, families and communities. Nothing is more sacred or important to us than our children and seeing them grow up to reach their full potential with their siblings, families, communities and indeed all other First Nations cheering them along. We have a lot of work to do to repair the damage done, but we are ready and have been held back for years. This will give us a new foundation, and the chance to making lasting change within our Treaty and inherent rights. I fully support this important step forward."Tribal Chief Mark Arcand, Saskatoon Tribal CouncilSaskatchewan
"I was raised without my community, culture, language, and territory due to the shortfalls and systemic barriers in provincial child welfare systems, which could not adequately account for First Nations realities and denied my First Nation the right to bring me home. I am hopeful this legislation will recognize our traditional laws and incorporate the voices of Indigenous youth in and from care to bring an end to the practices and systems which perpetuate colonialism and cultural genocide and instead enable Indigenous youth like myself, my foster siblings, and my friends to grow up in their communities and on the land, proud to be learning their languages and cultures. "Ashley Bach, former youth in care member of the Mishkeegogamang First Nation, and member of NAN's Oshkaatisak (All Young Peoples') CouncilOntario
"Legislation on children and families is critical for our Nations to have their jurisdiction affirmed. We must make this a priority and our Nations in BC have pushed for these changes for many years. The time has come to make this happen and make this right. " Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Leadership CouncilBritish Columbia
"I congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau and Ministers Bennett and Philpott for their foresight and partnership. Through this critically important move towards legislation they demonstrate reconciliation in action while acknowledging the jurisdiction and authority of the Métis Nation over our children's welfare. This legislation would provide essential tools for our Métis Government to focus on prevention, strengthen families, support communities, and proactively shape a healthy future for our children."President David Chartrand, Manitoba Métis FederationManitoba
"Federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare has the potential to enshrine our right to care for our children in a way that is consistent with our cultural traditions and values. Legislation can remove the uncertainty often found in programs that are based on vague and ever-changing policy directives, and provide a foundation for accountability, while honouring our inherent rights."Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Nishnawbe Aski NationOntario
"On behalf of the Métis Nation of Ontario we want to express our support and appreciation for the work of Ministers Bennett and Philpott and the Government of Canada for moving this important legislation forward. This legislation will be incredibly important for our Métis families and communities and for our future generations."President Margaret Froh, Métis Nation of OntarioOntario
"This is first and foremost about our children, the focus of all we do. We acknowledge the efforts and action by First Nations that led to this important announcement. We must now work together to co-develop legislation that will support First Nations in designing and implementing systems of care that work for First Nations, protect our children and respect our rights."AFN Regional Chief Kevin HartManitoba
"I welcome this announcement for child welfare legislation. It has been two years since I tabled my comprehensive report to the Governments of Canada and British Columbia on First Nations child welfare reform. Children, youth, families and communities were consistent in describing to me the fundamental change they wanted to see to support the re-unification of families, including the need to roll-back the imposition of the provincial child welfare system on our Nations without our consent. The trauma caused by the child welfare system and systemic removal of children will not be reversed overnight. However, the concept of this proposed legislation can return us to a relationship where Government supports our peoples and our distinct human rights as individuals and as peoples. We must place this work within the task of reconciliation based upon the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There will be much work to be done together. Today we pause and consider the trauma and harm this system caused over the years—and remember the losses and those who would have wanted to be here to see this come to pass. With this new approach, we celebrate a beginning—a more respectful beginning based on affirming our inherent rights and freedoms, and places children at the centre." Grand Chief Ed John, Tl'azt'en NationBritish Columbia
"On October, 26, 2018, Sto:lo Matriarchs stood and reclaimed their jurisdiction for children and families. The Matriarchs told Chiefs and Leaders that it is time to quit talking and time for action. These powerful Great Grandmothers and Grandmothers shared their deeply personal histories of pain and suffering caused by the residential school and the 60's scoop. Sto:lo Matriarchs signed a Declaration and pledged to keep our children safe and within our families. Matriarchs will work with leaders to reclaim our languages, culture and spirituality and heal our children, youth, families, villages, and Nation. This move towards federal legislation unlocks and opens the door closed and locked by the Indian Act. This law would recognize the Sto:lo Matriarchs and their jurisdiction for children and families. This law and Recognition is an important and necessary first step. Our Matriarchs and Chiefs are prepared to work with willing and like-minded partners to create a better world for the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren."Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Stó:l? Tribal CouncilBritish Columbia
"Pauktuutit welcomes the news that federal child and family services legislation will be introduced with the intention to restore our self-determination regarding our children and their well-being. Legislation, policy and regulations within Canadian law must take into account Inuit Qauyimayagit. Inuit women and children's distinct rights, needs and priorities must be included in these discussions, consistent with Canada's commitment to the implementation of UNDRIP, particularly Article 22."President Rebecca Kudloo, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada Nunavut
"During the years spent as one of the Commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it became very clear what occurred intergenerationally when Indigenous children were removed from their families with the trauma that entailed and continues through the current child welfare system. Healing our families is of the utmost importance in keeping our Indigenous children within their own family units and our Nations. As a Commissioner but more importantly as a Grandfather, I strongly believe that our First Nations' inherent rights of self-determination as supported internationally through the Treaties, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN and OAS Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, must be respected and recognized by all governments. No longer can legislation be made for us – we must be directly involved in the creation of our own Laws that are recognized and supported by Canada."Dr. Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on Indian Residential SchoolsAlberta
The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) is pleased the federal government will be tabling legislation on Indigenous child welfare. In Ontario, Friendship Centres have been supporting multiple generations of Indigenous children and families over the past five decades. It is a shared responsibility to care for children and Friendship Centres have been at the forefront of providing culture-based, prevention supports for urban Indigenous children, youth and families. The OFIFC looks forward to working with the federal government to co-develop a new system of supports based on shared responsibility, increased government accountability, and the recognition of the role of urban community-based Indigenous service provision. It is our hope this proposed legislation will lead to positive outcomes and increased wellbeing in the lives of urban Indigenous children, families and communities for generations to come. Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship CentresOntario
"Hard work requires challenging conversations, innovative thinking, and most importantly, action. This proposed legislation is about recognition, it's about our children and it's about providing the necessary resources for the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan to support families. It's about answering the healing call with our ideas, and most importantly, to continue to build a strong and healthy Nation for us and future generations. Prime Minister Trudeau and Ministers Bennett and Philpott have demonstrated that they are listening through this proposed legislation. Efforts need to be sustained, however, and that means more will be required going forward. We are eager to be part of the engagement and decision-making process that has been established."President Glen McCallum, Métis Nation – SaskatchewanSaskatchewan
"For the larger part of Canada's history, Indigenous children have suffered as a result of racist and misogynistic colonial policies. As legislators, we have an obligation to do better for Indigenous children. We must support the development of policies that do not force an ultimatum between the well-being of children and their Indigenous identities." Senator Marilou McPhedran, Senate of CanadaManitoba
"The proposed Federal Child Welfare Legislation provides communities opportunities to integrate their customs, traditions and ways of relating to one another in a holistic framework to care for their child(ren) and families. It reflects our community Local Child and Family Committees and Leadership who know our families, resources and program and can develop tailor made solutions while increasing the community's capacity to care for their children".Executive Director Doreen Moellenbeck-Dushnitsky, M.S.W., B.A. Dakota Ojibway Child & Family ServicesManitoba
"We see this as an important step towards ensuring every child and youth remains safely in the care of their families and communities from this day forward. It is recognition that the Métis are the best caregivers for their children. It recognizes that Métis families and communities are in the best position to restore care of their youth and children, passing on Métis traditions, cultures and ways of life. This legislation will also support Métis-specific prevention services and ensure existing services are culturally competent." Minister for Culture Clara Morin Dal Col, Heritage and Families of the Métis NationBritish Columbia
"Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (LFMO) is very happy that the work with Indigenous Services and CIRNA over the past twelve months is leading to the introduction of co-developed legislation that will assist our Métis children and families. Our Métis governments are empowered to ensure the rights of Métis children are protected. We are bringing home our Métis children and will work to provide the supports they need."President Melanie Omeniho, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak Ontario
"The legislation is critical for First Nations children and youth who have lived through discrimination. I know first-hand the painful trauma in the child welfare system—the great risks of being taken away from family, community and our teachings. We have a responsibility to make sure everything we set out in this legislation is for the children and youth, and makes it right for all generations who have been through these painful systems. This includes fully respecting and implementing the Human Rights Tribunal decision, with fiscal equality for our children and youth, and fully implementing Jordan's Principle to make sure that our children never fall through jurisdictional cracks in the system again."Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian ChiefsBritish Columbia
"As our Chiefs are vigilantly advocating for self-governance and self-determination, we see a great opportunity to use the proposed legislation to undertake the remodelling of a dysfunctional child welfare system focused on removing First Nation Children from their home and community. Our children have suffered for too long and they deserve the best care and support by First Nations. We are best suited to provide the safe and cultural environment our children need to succeed in life "Chef Ghislain Picard Chief Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et Labrador Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and LabradorQuebec
"On behalf of the Métis citizens of Alberta I want to thank the Government of Canada for advancing this important piece of legislation. The Métis Nation of Alberta is committed to ending the over representation of Métis children in care. I feel strongly that this legislation will help us in bringing our children home and re-uniting our families."President Audrey Poitras, Métis Nation of AlbertaAlberta
"Today we heard from our leadership and the need for legislation that affirms our Treaty and Inherent rights to assert jurisdiction over our children is needed to break free from the current system that's failing them. Legislation that provides the wrap around supports and prevention is required to nurture our families, and is of the utmost importance to our Chiefs." Second Vice-Chief David Pratt, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous NationsSaskatchewan
"There is a critical need for the Mi'kmaq to take control and jurisdiction over our most important resource, our children. Proposed Federal Child Welfare legislation will enable the Mii'kmaq to heal our communities through our own customs, values and traditions. Solutions in Child Welfare can't be imposed; rather, they must be developed by and for the Mi'kmaq people."Chief Paul Prosper, Paqtnkek First NationNova Scotia
"Our legacy is our blood, our children; Canada's move to bring to life the TRC's call to action #4 will create legislation that will make space for our inherent jurisdiction - our laws for our children and families. No more genocide, no more lost children; no more breaking up of families. We are the ones who the children have been waiting for."Wenecwtsin Kukpi7 Christian Splatsin, Splatsin First NationBritish Columbia
"It is anticipated that new co-developed legislation will mean that First Nations exercising their jurisdiction will have the opportunity to provide their own systems, delegated authority, etc. that are based on First Nations' values, culture and traditions. We can't go wrong if we remain focused on the children." Chief Denise Stonefish, Assembly of First Nations Women's Council ChairOntario
"The announcement today is a major step forward and holds potential for positive changes in the lives of many First Nations children, youth and their communities. The mainstream child welfare system has not served First Nations families and communities well and this has grown over time to become a national humanitarian crisis. The Federal government in previous times encouraged the provincial and territorial child welfare systems to apply to First Nations peoples and territories without the consent of those peoples. Like residential school policy before it, the impact on families was harsh and disrupted the transmission of language, culture, and caused immense trauma. The human rights of children and youth were specifically violated. Successive generations of First Nations families have experienced intervention in their families, within systems that exacerbated shame, fear and loss. There must be bold steps in any legislative initiative to ensure a decisive break from the current system, including affirming First Nations governments authority to work within their own laws, culture, language, and family policies." Director Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe), Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and Professor of Law University of British Columbia British Columbia
"The Chiefs and leaders who work together in the Kwumut Lelum Child and Family Service agency have been ready for this change. We have always worked within our own systems to support our children, youth and families. We know we can end the removal of children to families outside our Nations and bring our distinct values, culture, language and approaches to supporting families. We welcome the work to support the reunification and reconnection of children with their families. The children and youth expect us to fix the problems that have led to them being removed from their families. They want greater resources to prevent family breakdown and assist them when problems arise to stay in their families and communities. Our children are sacred and we want to do everything to allow them to grow and develop and become the people they wish to be. New federal legislation can help us along this journey. We hope British Columbia and other provinces and territories join our people and the Federal government in making these needed reform." Bill Yoachim, Kwumut Lelum Child and Family Services British Columbia
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SOURCE Indigenous Services Canada
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