PM announces support for Indigenous communities to take over child welfare services
Last updated 12/8/2020 at 10:12am
The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced in late November that his government is providing $542 million for First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations to help them take over child welfare services.
The cash is part of the federal government's ongoing project to implement Bill C-92, through which Indigenous communities can assert inherent jurisdiction over the system. Parliament passed a law to reform the system in 2019, requiring that children on reserves have access to services equal to those who live off reserves. The legislation also recognizes that Indigenous Peoples' constitutional right to self-government includes the right to run their own welfare agencies.
"This co-developed legislation is about putting kids first, fewer children in care and reuniting families. To do that, Indigenous communities must be in the driver's seat," Justin Trudeau said.
"Our government is investing $542 million to Indigenous communities to exercise full jurisdiction over child and family services. This is vital to moving forward on our promise to address the unacceptable injustices that too many kids and families have faced in the care system."
The money is earmarked to help organizations build capacity to establish their own systems and will be distributed based on organizations' still-to-be-identified needs. Under the reform bill, Indigenous communities can assume jurisdiction over child welfare services by signing co-ordination agreements with Ottawa and relevant provincial authorities that bring Indigenous laws into force.
Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller, said the situation is an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
"It's a crisis we must have the courage to address head on," said Miller after Trudeau spoke. "That is why First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities are best placed to determine their needs and ensure their children, youth and families thrive."
Though Indigenous children make up only 7.7 percent of all children aged newborn to 14, in Canada, 52.2 percent of children in foster care are Indigenous. The number of children now in state care exceeds that of the residential school era. Child protection agencies have often removed Indigenous children not just from their parents, but also out of their communities and cultures, often because they had few other options because of the lack of funding.
"We are keeping our promise to give them the support they need to keep children within their families and their communities, so they can grow up surrounded by the strength of their culture to achieve their full potential," Trudeau said.