New federal legislation will give First Nations more control over child welfare, FSIN says
Sask.'s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations supports new bill introduced last week to mixed reactions
Saskatchewan's Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is applauding the federal government for its changes to child welfare laws.
Last week, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan introduced Bill C-92 — new legislation the federal government said would effectively hand over decision making to First Nations communities in an effort to tackle "crisis" levels of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in foster care.
At a Friday morning news conference at the federation's office in Saskatoon, FSIN vice-chief David Pratt said the legislation will give First Nations more control over child welfare.
Currently, the provincial government has jurisdiction over many aspects of the system.
Pratt hopes the province will agree to work with the FISN. He also hopes that changes can be made quickly and adequate funding will follow.
"We can't be set up for failure. We have to be able to have the resources we need as we assert that jurisdictional piece and build capacity to bring our children home," Pratt said.
Pratt noted 85 per cent of Saskatchewan children in care are Indigenous, even though Indigenous children make up only 25 per cent of Saskatchewan's child population.
Pratt says the legislation should be amended to include a greater emphasis on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognizes the right to self-determination and autonomy with regard to their "internal and local affairs."
O'Regan said last week the new legislation will shift the focus from apprehension of Indigenous children to prevention, by prioritizing services like prenatal care and support to parents.
It's also aimed at preventing children from being taken away because their families are living in poverty.
The legislation has prompted mixed reaction from First Nations and Métis leaders across Canada.
Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, said his organization is "cautiously optimistic," but wants "to do due diligence and also ensure that the interests of First Nations children are reflected in the bill."
"It has been something we have been waiting for for quite some time," said Marilyn Birch, director of the child and family services program with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.
But Association of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas called it "very disappointing" and "sort of misleading."
"It builds upon a lot of good words but there's actually no real teeth to it," he said last week.
With Files from Caroline Barghout, Shane Ross and John Paul Tasker