'It starts with hope': Indigenous Affairs Minister announces funding for Ontario First Nations children

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced $9.11 million to help Ontario First Nations raise children in healthy and safe environments during a visit on Thursday to Sudbury, Ont.

Eligible communities will start receiving money on April 1

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, speaks to CBC News following a federal funding announcement for Ontario First Nations child and family services.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has announced $9.11 million to help Ontario First Nations raise children in healthy and safe environments.

"It starts with hope," Bennett said during a visit on Thursday to Sudbury, Ont. "There is now a priority established to keep kids in their communities."

The indicator of the funding's success will be having fewer First Nations children in the protection system, according to Bennett. 

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee called the announcement "welcome news."

'We want to build the autonomy of First Nations'

"It's always the case that First Nations have do a $500 job with $200," Madahbee said.

"At the end of the day, we always say 'what's in the best interest of the child?'"

Eligible First Nations will start receiving the money on April 1, and Bennett said they can spend it on their own terms.

"A lot of people felt that when prevention dollars were going into agencies that somehow that ends up with lawyers," Bennet said. 

"We want to build the autonomy of First Nations."

'Empower healing at the First Nation level'

It is important for funds that are directed towards preventing children from entering child and family services to be community-driven, according to Denise Morrow, the executive director of Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services.

"Although our child-welfare model is community-based, working with our First Nations, hand-and-hand in relation to joint service planning and delivery, the resources at the First Nation level to prevent that child welfare referral have been minimal," Morrow said.

"Families continue to struggle with many areas in relation to mental health, addictions and overall well-being.

"It's positive news for the First Nations to be able to now implement some of the programs and services that are needed to support families, and empower healing at the First Nation level," she said.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

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Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.