The Canadian Government has pledged half a billion dollars to implement legislation which gives First Nations communities power over decision-making for their children and families.
Introduced on January 1 this year, Bill C-92, Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, was co-developed with Indigenous partners to reform child and family services and reduce the number of Indigenous children in care.
According the 2016 Canadian Census, Indigenous children represented 52.2 per cent of those in out-of-home care, despite only making up 7.7 per cent of all children between the ages of 0 and 14.
On November 27 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an additional $542 million in funding to advance Indigenous engagement for the co-development and implementation of the Act.
“This coming January will mark a year since Bill C-92 came into effect to affirm the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities, to exercise jurisdiction over their children and families,” the Prime Minister said, announcing the funding during a routine COVID-19 update.
“This co-developed legislation is about putting kids first, having fewer children in care and reuniting more families. To do that, Indigenous communities must be in the driver’s seat.”
“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 funding will support Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family service systems.
It will also fund the participation of Indigenous groups at coordination agreement tables with provinces and territories, which will encourage community-directed prevention and early intervention.
“This is an important piece of legislation for First Nations children and families, who have had to suffer for too long as a result of the imposition of colonial laws and systems created specifically to assimilate our people, First Nations in BC (British Columbia) have been fighting for this for a long time and we are ready to move forward,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.
“First Nations continue to define what their existing governance and jurisdiction is, not the government. First Nations will define how they engage government in coordination agreements. There were substantive revisions in the Bill to respect these rights.”
The $542 million will be distributed according to needs identified during discussions with Indigenous partners. It adds to the $3 billion already invested into First Nations children and families since 2019.
“We promised to give Indigenous communities the support they need to keep their children safe, to keep their families together, and to have the opportunity to thrive,” said Canadian Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller.
“We know we have a long way to go and today’s announcement is a step forward toward keeping that promise.
“This marks an important next step in seeing the full and effective implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families so that we can better support Indigenous communities.”
The Act responds to calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and advances calls for justice as outlined by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
By Rachael Knowles