TORONTO – Earlier today, the Chiefs of Ontario met with Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Minister of Child and Youth Services, Michael Coteau and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, David Zimmer from Ontario to discuss Child Welfare reform and jurisdiction.
“The Chiefs of Ontario remain cautiously optimistic of this initial meeting as we need to move forward immediately to ensure that the wellbeing of our children, youth and families is safeguarded,” said Ontario Regional Chief Day. “We recognize as do Canada and Ontario that reform of the First Nations child, youth and family services is necessary, and addressing this critical process is long overdue. In order to achieve success, we need the commitment from all levels of governments to turn our political will into action.”
While we undertake this process, many concerns and issues remain outstanding, such as the findings of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the January 2016 decision, which have yet to be addressed through effective remedies.
- The “immediate relief” provided has been inadequate, and additional funds are needed for increased prevention services, mental health services, Band representative funding and capital improvements.
- An Ontario Special Study needs to be resourced and commenced so we can identify the service gaps in Ontario as created by the 1965 Indian Welfare Agreement and determine how to fill those gaps and the necessary program reforms.
- The Chiefs in Assembly have previously decided that the 1965 Agreement has to be reviewed, amended or replaced. These discussions have not yet taken place. Canada needs to make a commitment to this process, together with Ontario.
Our children continue to suffer from the Intergenerational effects from the inequitable funding of child welfare services delivered on reserve. This leads to continued breakdown in families and cultural harm resulting in a loss of language, and disconnect from community.
Many of our children remain in the child welfare system, with over 25% of the children in foster care being Indigenous. When we lose children to care, they are seldom reunited with their families. The time to act is now.
“During today’s meeting Minister Bennett made it clear that a new approach needs to be lead and directed by First Nations. We ask that if she stands by her words, that the funding model be broadened to fully respect First Nation jurisdiction and the definition of child welfare be defined by the regions,” said Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Grand Chief Joel Abram.
We need to get commitments in place and base and equitable funding, to get us moving forward immediately. Our children cannot wait any longer.
“The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling on Child Welfare funding in First Nations is a clear benchmark, signaling that Canada is ready to work with us on securing a future for our children,” concludes Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.