Federal Government and Assembly of First Nations Take Next Step in Indigenous Child Welfare Reform

    AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

    Bill C-92 passed in the last Parliament and took effect Jan. 1, setting national standards for Indigenous jurisdiction over child and family services. The agreement is a guide for discussions between Ottawa and Indigenous governments as each community moves to assert its control of child welfare for its own kids, recognizing Indigenous laws and customs.

    National Chief Perry Bellegarde says provincial governments that want to cling to their jurisdiction over child welfare are the biggest barrier to implementing new legislation giving Indigenous communities control over their children's well-being.

    Bellegarde and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller signed an agreement in Ottawa Monday morning that is the next step forward in implementing Bill C-92. The bill passed in the last Parliament and took effect Jan. 1, setting national standards for Indigenous jurisdiction over child and family services.

    The agreement establishes a "joint fiscal table" on First Nations child and family services - a forum where Ottawa and First Nations can negotiate funding agreements to support communities who want to assume the responsibility of caring for children.

    However, several provinces are concerned over the impact on their own roles in child-welfare programs, and Quebec is challenging the constitutionality of the bill in court.
     

    The agreement is a guide for discussions between Ottawa and Indigenous governments as each community moves to assert its control of child welfare for its own kids, recognizing Indigenous laws and customs. Bellegarde says those discussions must also happen with provincial governments, which he pegged as one of the biggest barriers to reducing the number of Indigenous children in foster care in Canada.

    Bellegarde said the agreement is about devolving power from the provincial care systems - where Indigenous children are vastly over-represented - to individual First Nations, so that more children can remain in their home communities.
     

    There are more Indigenous children in care now than at the height of the residential school era.

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