A recent human rights ruling means Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia could see an expansion of programs for aboriginal children and families.

"We were all overwhelmed and excited about the ruling," said Arlene Johnson, executive director of Mi'kmaq Family and Children's Services in Eskasoni. "For us, it means that we can expand on our services and we know that we will receive additional funding." 

Last month, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found the federal government discriminates against First Nations children by granting up 38 per cent less funding to on-reserve child welfare services than is provided off reserve.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has said the Liberal government agrees with the decision and pledged it would begin working with aboriginal groups to find solutions. The government said fixes will mean more money.

The additional money would mean Mi'kmaq Family and Children's Services, which delivers child welfare services to aboriginal reserves across the province, can provide culturally relevant programming for children and families, Johnson said.

All services, especially in prevention, have been underfunded, she said.

More prevention, less adversarial approaches

Johnson said all the service's programs are to be culturally relevant, and include "the use of elders, the use of language, and to meet community needs."

One program currently in the works is called family group conferencing, she said.

It would "use less adversarial approaches in terms of diverting [people] away from court eventually. It's a process, family group conferencing, where we can include the family and the family is involved all through the decision making."

The agency is also working on its adoption program, Johnson said.

"We want it to be enriched with our Mi'kmaq culture and traditions. And it's basically about [children] understanding their identity, you know, being proud of their culture, understanding the culture by traditional learning."

She said she wants to see social and health services for Eskasoni families provided in their own community, instead of outside the community.