Saskatoon

Sask. First Nations asking federal government to transfer $360M per year to take over child welfare

New federal legislation now allows First Nations to take control of their own child welfare. But Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said that can only happen if money now spent on those kids is transferred to First Nations agencies.

First Nations can do a better job caring for their own children: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, second from right, and other leaders are calling on the federal government to transfer more than $1.5 billion over the next five years to First Nations to run their child welfare systems. (Jason Warick/CBC)

New federal legislation now allows First Nations to take control of their own child welfare.

But Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said that can only happen if money now spent on those kids by the federal government is transferred to First Nations agencies.

Bill C-92 came into effect on Jan. 1. The federal bill is intended to address overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care by giving Indigenous governments the option to take control of child welfare services, and to create their own child welfare laws.

To help do that, the chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations organization said they'll be asking the federal government to transfer an estimated $360 million per year over the next five years to First Nations. That will allow them to set up and run high quality services in their own communities, Cameron said.

"Our children are looking out the window waiting for us to bring them home. We, as leaders and parents and grandparents, will do our best to bring them home to First Nations communities," said the FISN chief, who hosted a news conference Friday morning with other chiefs from around the province.

They agreed the money is necessary to provide proper services.

"Our expectation here, our demand as First Nations is for a funding envelope for us to be able to do that work," said FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt.

Chief Brady O'Watch of the Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation said the children would receive better care under the new model, and also retain their culture and language.

"Our kids are our future.… Let us raise our kids," O'Watch said.

The $360 million per year figure is the estimated amount calculated at an average cost of $63,000 per year per child in care, Cameron said.

In his December mandate letter to Marc Miller, the new Indigenous Services minister, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed the minister to work with the provinces and territories to fully implement Bill C-92, and ensure predictable and sufficient long-term funding. 

With files from Olivia Stefanovich

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