Saskatoon·Updated

Saskatoon Tribal Council says seizing child files like invasion of sovereign country

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas claims a provincial move to seize confidential child files is akin to invading a sovereign country.

Childrens' Advocate disputes claim that no kids died under STC care in two decades

Chief Felix Thomas said protecting the children today is the priority. (CBC)

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas claims a provincial move to seize confidential child files is akin to invading a sovereign country.

And the STC chief won't stand for it.

"We don't think their notice was done legitimately to begin with," he said in an interview.

"You just can't go in and take over a country. And that's basically what they've tried to do here."

Yesterday, the Ministry of Social Services assumed responsibility for child welfare programs served by the Saskatoon Tribal Council. 

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer released a statement saying the ministry has had issues with the STC regarding access to information about their child welfare programs and child protection files for some time. The statement notes that STC has repeatedly refused the ministry access to its on-reserve files and the children the STC serves.

So, government employees are going to STC offices today to collect files on children, adding this move will affect 50 to 100 children on-reserve.

Thomas said the STC has never had a child die while under its care.

The province's Childrens' Advocate takes issue with that claim, although Bob Pringle said it may be semantics.

"I think I heard the chief say that there have been no children in care die in 20 years," he said.

"He may very well be right. But he can't say there have been no children die under their watch, in other words their child protection service. He cannot say that."

Thomas said he first heard of the province's plan on Tuesday afternoon, by email. He was dismayed and disappointed, but not surprised.

Thomas said he's tried for years to get the province to sign on to a plan to share relevant information. But he claims it has never replied.

He said the province has clearly been working on a unilateral plan for a while because the minister came out with a detailed announcement.

He said the government has never used the dispute settlement mechanism in the current bilateral agreement.

Thomas said the goal today is to protect the children.

"We've been in touch with our staff members and told them it's business as usual. Make sure those children are kept safe," he said.

"We do have an injunction ready and set to go, to stop the unilateral action by the province, this ministry."

The province claims it's worked since 2008 with the STC to complete a new delegation agreement for the delivery of child services on reserve.

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