First Nation CFS authority taken over by province
The Manitoba government has taken over management of the Southern First Nations Network of Care, a child and family services authority that is embroiled in a leadership dispute.
Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard announced on Friday that she has appointed deputy minister Jeff Parr to serve as the authority's interim administrator.
The Southern First Nations Network of Care, also known as the Southern Authority, has only one director remaining on its board following a dispute over board appointments.
Howard said her top priority is ensuring that children remain cared for properly by the child and family services (CFS) agencies that are overseen by the authority.
"My hope is that now that we have the Southern Authority under administration that we'll be able to set aside those issues and the people that need to be focused on looking after those kids will be able to focus on their job," she said Friday.
But the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says the province has no business in taking over the Southern Authority.
In a release, the assembly said it had asked both Howard and Premier Greg Selinger on Oct. 1 to intervene in the authority's "ongoing issues regarding governance of the Southern Authority," but it said nothing was done.
"Had Minister Howard acted over seven weeks ago to preserve the Southern Authority’s Board as requested by the AMC, today's appointment of deputy minister Parr as an administrator would not have been necessary," the AMC's release states in part.
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak accused Howard of interfering with the assembly's right to appoint board members.
Earlier this week, Howard ordered the Southern First Nations Network of Care to investigate complaints about one of its agencies, Sagkeeng Child and Family Services Inc.
The investigation was launched after CBC News reported that current and former social workers there are concerned that children in the agency's care are at risk due to excessive caseloads.
In a letter sent on Tuesday, Howard ordered Southern Authority CEO Elsie Flette to report back to her as soon as possible.
But Progressive Conservative critic Bonnie Mitchelson said all 10 of the Southern Authority's agencies, not just Sagkeeng, should be investigated.
"Are children being seen every time by case workers? Are we seeing case workers just like in the Phoenix Sinclair situation? Are we seeing workers moved from case to case to case where there's no continuity?" Mitchelson said.