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Manitoba Government Signs Historic Declaration to Transfer Responsibility for Indigenous Child Welfare to First Nations

The Manitoba government and First Nation chiefs from across the province signed a historic relationship declaration committing to the transfer of jurisdiction over child welfare to First Nations, Premier Wab Kinew and Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine announced today.

 

“Every child in our province deserves to grow up with the ability to answer who they are and where they come from,” said Kinew. “That is why our government is working with First Nations to ensure children in care maintain connection to their families, their culture and their language. Together, we can build a future in Manitoba where we don’t have to come back and apologize to the next generation of children.”

 

“First Nations children in care do better when they’re able to stay within community and connected to culture,” said Fontaine. “Every child in Manitoba should have supports to thrive and we know the current child welfare system needs to do better. First Nations are best placed to care for their own children and today’s declaration is an important step forward as we work collaboratively to return responsibility for child welfare.”

 

The relationship declaration was signed today at a roundtable meeting attended by almost 40 Indigenous leaders from across Manitoba, the premier noted.

 

“Our language, culture, and traditional ways of life will serve as the foundation for our programming,” said Chief Gordon Bluesky, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. “We will ensure our people have access to adequate capital infrastructure to support their needs. We will continue to uplift and support one another as we exercise our treaty and inherent rights, creating our own child and family services law that will benefit future generations to come.”

 

Bill C-92, an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, became law in 2020. The federal act reaffirms the authority of Indigenous nations to pass and enforce laws related to the provision of child and family services to their citizens supported by co-ordination agreements with Canada and provinces or territories.

 

Manitoba signed its first co-ordination agreement in 2023 with Peguis First Nation and Canada in 2023. The government has supported the transfer of jurisdiction through amendments to the Child and Family Services (CFS) Act enabling collaboration and information sharing with Indigenous government bodies and CFS providers, prioritizing placements with family, kin or community for all children, and allowing new agreement-based supports to prevent children from coming into care.

 

The minister noted the relationship declaration responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action to reduce the number of Indigenous children and care and affirm the right of Indigenous governments to establish and maintain their own child welfare agencies.

 

The declaration also aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognizes the right of Indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and well-being of their children, consistent with the rights of the child, noted the minister.

 

As of March 31, 2023, 91 per cent of the 8,990 children in care in Manitoba were Indigenous, the minister said.

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