Funding shortfalls for First Nation child welfare agencies Feared
TREATY ONE TERRITORY, MB. – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is concerned that the Manitoba government’s newly announced block funding of provincial child and family services authorities will lead to underfunding of agencies as it continues to wrongly appropriate Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) meant to benefit First Nations children.
Recently Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced the provincial government will move to a block funding model for three years beginning April 1, 2019. The provincial government has also said child welfare agencies will now retain the Children’s Special Allowance (CSA).
The AMC remains concerned about the province of Manitoba’s ongoing unilateral approach to its alleged reform of the provincial child welfare system. This includes the number of First Nations children who have not or will not be placed with the appropriate agencies.
“The province of Manitoba continues to ignore the longstanding position and resolutions of the AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly that seeks to reassert First Nations’ jurisdiction and approach to our children and families. This includes realigning a direct federal – First Nation relationship as identified by the AMC – Canada Memorandum of Understanding. While the province’s recent announcement was not informed by First Nation engagement or consultation, the AMC remains committed to continuing to work with First Nations to reassert their jurisdiction,” said Acting AMC Grand Chief Glenn Hudson of Peguis First Nation.
The AMC has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting him to direct the ministers of Indigenous Services Canada and Justice Canada to work with First Nations leadership in Manitoba to jointly draft a federal bill that will fund and give effect to Manitoba First Nations through the “Bringing Our Children Home Act.”
“Manitoba First Nations leadership have worked toward the well-being of families through the development of Manitoba-specific federal legislation called the ‘Bringing Our Children Home Act,’ and is working on reviving our inherent laws on families. Sadly, with the Province of Manitoba’s announcement, they continue to ignore us,” said Swan Lake First Nation Chief Francine Meeches, who is also chair of the AMC Women’s Council.
There is also the concern this model will create funding shortfalls and wrongfully reallocates the Children’s Special Allowance to the authorities and agencies.
“The AMC cannot support any provincial measure that continues to wrongfully take monies meant for First Nations children to bolster and fund a provincial system. What should happen is the last 12 years of the CSA should be returned to the children who have gone through the child welfare system in Manitoba. By allowing the agencies to keep the Children’s Special Allowance now, it is likely just to cover up the funding shortfalls incurred by this system,” said Chief Meeches.
Acting Grand Chief Hudson concluded: “Provincially-designed and imposed decisions continually miss the mark in reforming what’s known as the Manitoba humanitarian crisis of child welfare. The AMC continues to push for reform of this crisis by engaging and involving First Nations grassroots and leadership. We have heard and have said the funding dollars for children in care should go straight to the First Nations so they may apply their own First Nations family laws to help keep our children with our families and within our Nations.”