Sask. government taking over child welfare programs from Saskatoon Tribal Council
This move will affect 50-100 chlidren on reserve
Effective today, the Ministry of Social Services is assuming responsibility for child welfare programs served by the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC).
On Tuesday, Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer released a statement saying the ministry has had issues with the STC for awhile accessing information about their child welfare programs and child protection files. The statement notes that STC has repeatedly refused the ministry access to its on-reserve files and the children the STC serves.
Harpauer said the STC is the only agency among 17 First Nations groups delivering child protection services that isn't making its information available to the province.
"They allow our quality assurance to go on the agency, randomly take files, and ensure that the level of care is to the provincial standard because we believe that all children are entitled to the same level of care in our province," Harpauer said.
In light of this, Harpauer said government employees are going to STC offices Wednesday to collect files, adding this move will affect 50 to 100 children on-reserve. She said the ministry has the capacity to take on full child welfare services to the families previously served by the STC.
STC applies for injunction, judicial review
STC Chief Felix Thomas tells CBC News he's disappointed with the ministry's tactics, adding that in the past he's attempted to start a conversation with the ministry to sign an agreement so information about the STC's child programs could be made available.
Thomas said the STC applied for an interim injunction to restrain the government's invasion to confiscate its child welfare files. They've also asked for a judicial review to look at the conduct of social services and the Government of Saskatchewan in stripping the STC's on-reserve child welfare programs and its negotiation tactics.
"I'm not surprised because they've been after us to give up what we see as jurisdiction of our First Nations land and authority so I'm not surprised at how they're acting," Thomas said.
According to Thomas, the province, the federal government and the STC met yesterday to discuss the issues of access to information. Thomas said the province also divulged to the feds that two children had died under the STC's care. Thomas said that's simply not true, rather it's an attempt to poison the well.
"We've never had a child die in our care and then the province at last count, over 200 children have died in provincial care, so is it wrong to try and keep our service?" Thomas said.
Ministry cites problems dating back to 2008
The minister's statement explains since 2008 they've tried to work with the STC to complete a new delegation agreement for the delivery of child services on-reserve. That includes a standard of accountability and reporting requirements.
Harpauer said those attempts have not been successful and the STC doesn't agree to follow standard accountability and reporting mechanisms followed by all other First Nations agencies in the province.
The government said this decision was not taken lightly but was made to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable children.
The ministry said they remain interested in chance to negotiate a new agreement with the STC to work together with the ministry in the future
With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger