Manitoba Setting New Course with Changes to Child Welfare

Manitoba Legislature
Manitoba Legislature
Manitoba Legislature
Manitoba Legislature

Community Driven – Greater Support for Families

WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is working toward making a systemic change to the child welfare legislation. The work has been done with inclusion from stakeholders, and is bringing a new direction, and maybe even new hope to Indigenous families and groups.

Manitoba Families Minister Scott Fielding has assembled a team of seven community leaders and experts that will review child welfare legislation to ensure it supports the government’s proposed reforms to create better outcomes for children.

“We are moving child welfare laws in a new direction that will allow for more community decision-making and planning and greater support for families and children,” said Fielding.  “This comprehensive review will examine existing legislation to find ways we can incorporate initiatives such as early intervention to keep children safely with their families or in their home communities, flexible funding to community agencies and permanency options like customary care.”

The committee will hold its first meeting today.  Andrew Micklefield, MLA for Rossmere, will serve as committee chair.  Micklefield is a father of three who served as principal of The King’s School prior to being elected.  As deputy government house leader and member of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, he brings experience in the legislative review and government planning and priorities, the minister noted.

Manitoba’s unique legislation devolves responsibility for Indigenous child welfare to authorities directed by boards appointed by the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF).  Based on advice from those organizations and other key stakeholders, the minister named the following members to the legislative review committee:

  • Sherwood Armbruster (vice-chair) has held senior roles in government and the non-profit sector including chief operating officer for Siloam Mission and front-line work in a residential treatment group home.  He has served on the boards of the North End Family Centre and National Council of Welfare.  He has been a foster, adoptive, biological and co-parent.
  • Diane Redsky is executive director of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and is dedicated to solving social issues in Winnipeg’s Indigenous community, such as the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls.  She has served as a professional and volunteer with local, national and international agencies to help create innovative programs.  Recognition for her work includes the Order of Manitoba and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
  • Michael Redhead Champagne is the founder of AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities) and committed to a wide variety of community initiatives such as Meet Me at the Bell Tower, Fearless, 2W and ARROWS Youth Engagement Strategy.  Champagne has served as president of the North End Community Renewal Corporation and is a board member of Marymound.  He was the 2016 Canadian Red Cross Young Humanitarian of the Year and a Next Generation Leader in TIME Magazine.
  • Joanne Crate (MKO representative) is a member of Norway House Cree Nation who has focused the last decade of her career on First Nation child welfare.  She is currently MKO’s child and family services (CFS) liaison officer and has held various positions at the CFS authority and agency level.   Crate was raised by her grandparents and treasures their teachings.
  • Dave Daniels (SCO representative) was born in Long Plain First Nation and was one of the key founders of Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services in 1980, the first Aboriginal child welfare agency in Canada.  Daniels opened a group home and served as CEO of several companies and organizations.
  • Audrey Frances Chartrand (MMF representative) lives in Dauphin and holds a bachelor of social work.  She has dedicated her career to the advancement of Métis Child and Family Services and served as the MMF’s director for the Métis Community Liaison Department from 2000 to 2015.

“The committee will engage authorities, community organizations, key stakeholders and experts who are invested in improving child welfare outcomes,” said Micklefield.  “Input is critical and we’re looking for a wide range of ideas, especially from youth, families and service providers involved in the child protection and family support systems.”

The committee will hold targeted consultations with stakeholders to discuss ways to transform the legislation that guides the CFS system:  The Child and Family Services Act and The Child and Family Services Authorities Act.

“As a member of the CFS Legislative Review Committee, I hope we can rethink how we deliver child services to children and families,” said Daniels.  “It’s time to think outside the box and make substantial changes that have a real long-term impact.”

“Working at the front-lines and having personal experience in the child welfare system, we have a unique and meaningful opportunity to influence positive change in how we support children, families and communities,” said Redsky.  “I am confident our concerns have been heard by government and we can begin the healing journey for families affected by CFS and strengthen our communities.”

The review includes regional meetings, an online survey and discussion paper that will be available to the public at in English and in French.

The committee will provide recommendations to government by spring 2018.

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