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Ottawa, Yukon gov't, First Nations lay groundwork for changes to child services

The so-called Trilateral Table, established in 2018, was formed to jointly develop a plan to provide First Nations children with what the group calls 'equitable opportunities to grow up safely with their families.'

Negotiations will aim at driving down the number of Indigenous children in foster care

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation office in Whitehorse. The framework for talks that's now been agreed to involves Kwanlin Dun and Carcross/Tagish First Nations, the federal and territorial governments and the Council of Yukon First Nations. (Janyce McGregor/CBC News)

A turning point in the process of giving Yukon First Nations more control over child welfare services was reached this month.

The federal, territorial, and First Nations governments have agreed on terms of reference for talks on First Nations child welfare services — a starting point of formal negotiations aimed at driving down the number of Indigenous children in foster care, according to a representative from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

"Basically, the vision is to ensure First Nation children and their families have equitable opportunities to grow up at home, to be healthy, achieve their dreams, celebrate their language and culture, and be proud of who they are," said Gary RusnakKwanlin Dun's director of justice.

The so-called Trilateral Table, established in 2018, was formed to jointly develop a plan to provide First Nations children with what the group calls "equitable opportunities to grow up safely with their families."

It also includes representatives from the Kwanlin Dun and Carcross/Tagish First Nations.

The process springs from a 2016 Human Rights Tribunal ruling that found Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding welfare services on First Nations land.

The current system — which seizes children from their families and communities and places them with foster parents — has been criticized.

Some believe it replicates mistakes made by the Indian residential school system and through the Sixties Scoop, alienating kids from their traditional language, culture and support networks.

Earlier this year, the federal government introduced Bill C-92. The legislation was intended to devolve responsibility for Indigenous children in care from Ottawa to First Nations.

While the bill and the Trilateral Table talks are separate processes, they share common goals, including reducing the number of Indigenous children in the child welfare system.

According to Census 2016, Indigenous children represent 52.2 per cent of children in foster care in private homes in Canada, but account for only 7.7 per cent of the overall population of children under 15.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Bill C-92 was introduced last fall. In fact, it was introduced last month.
    Mar 19, 2019 10:32 AM CT
  • An earlier version of this story described the Trilateral Table as linked to Bill C-92. In fact, the two are separate initiatives.
    Mar 29, 2019 12:32 PM CT

Written by Bruce Arculus, based on an interview by Max Leighton

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