AFN National Chief Speaking out on First Nations Child Welfare

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA – In Ottawa, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Bellegarde has appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The National Chief was a witness before the committee on First Nations Child Welfare issues.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs today, speaking directly to the urgency of passing federal legislation on First Nations child welfare in this session of Parliament.

“Bill C-92 is focused on the safety, security and future of First Nations children in Canada, and it’s crucial this legislation pass before the end of June,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde to members of the Standing Committee today. “The impact of the status quo child welfare system is felt every day in our families and communities. There is no greater gift from the Creator than our children. They deserve to grow up valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations.”

National Chief Bellegarde proposed specific areas to strengthen the bill together with Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Director of Indian Residential School Centre for History and Dialogue, Professor, Allard Law School, University of British Columbia.  Areas identified for strengthening include references to adequate funding, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, best interests of the child and Jordan’s Principle.

“No single legislative instrument will be enough on its own, but with First Nations jurisdiction paramount, we have a solid base for the change we need to see for our children and families,” said National Chief Bellegarde.  “Federal legislation sets a national framework and is a good first step to complement existing self-government agreements and while work at the regional and local levels continues. Bill C-92 recognizes and affirms the right to raise and take care of our children according to our own practices and values and to carry our languages and cultures forward from this generation to the next.”

An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, Bill C-92 was introduced in the House of Commons in February.  It was developed with direction from AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly and input by the AFN legislative working group which is comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

This legislation affirms First Nations jurisdiction and creates space for First Nations laws and practices regarding their families.  It respects rights in the context of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is the minimum international standard for the survival and dignity of Indigenous peoples. It sets out key principles that will prevent children from being removed from their homes unnecessarily, promotes children staying in their communities and nations and ensures the best interests of the child principle is understood and applied with a First Nations lens for our children and families.