NAN Statement on Historic Deal for Long-term Reform of First Nation Child & Family Services

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Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse

THUNDER BAY – Indigenous – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse has issued the following statement on a landmark deal with the Government of Canada on compensation and long-term reform of First Nations child and family services, including NAN’s Choose Life program and Jordan’s Principle supports:

“What has been achieved deserves to be celebrated and will strengthen our Nations’ ability to care for our children and families. While NAN welcomes this news, it must not be forgotten that many of our communities are struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our time and attention must be focused on providing these communities with the supports they need.

The Agreement-in-Principle reached today is based on the recognition that the federal government has failed our youth and families for decades, but that Canada has partnered with First Nations and negotiated a healing path forward.  This journey of long-term reform will be First Nations led and based on our inherent jurisdiction to care for our children.

As the identified voice for remote First Nation communities before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, NAN is particularly proud of the new approaches in the Agreement to challenges faced in the North.  NAN has joined with leadership of other remote communities across the country to break new ground on overcoming the barriers we face by establishing structural reforms specifically directed at remoteness.

I am pleased that, in NAN territory, the Choose Life program that provides essential suicide prevention supports for our youth will be further enhanced through long-term reform and sustainable funding.  It is significant that all this work has been, and will continue to be, led by First Nations as Treaty and Indigenous rights holders.  Meegwetch to our leaders and other members of our incredible team, and Murray Sinclair who took on the important role of facilitator in these matters. I acknowledge the significant contributions of Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, the newly established National Assembly of Remote Communities, and the Caring Society to reach this landmark Agreement with our federal Treaty partner.”

The Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) is the first stage in a two-stage process for the negotiation of a final settlement resolution scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2022.  The settlement will resolve longstanding litigation at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) and related class actions.  It includes $20 billion for those harmed by Canada’s discriminatory practices, and $20 billion for reforming the First Nations child welfare system and implementing Jordan’s Principle to address the discrimination found by the CHRT.

As a result of NAN’s advocacy, the AIP recognizes remoteness as a significant barrier to the delivery of child welfare services. The agreement will provide increased funding to meet actual costs of delivering care to our members in NAN communities.

Under the AIP, NAN’s Remoteness Quotient work will take on a national scope.  The deal recognizes the newly formed National Assembly of Remote Communities (NARC), which has already united the voices of remote communities from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Ontario.  For the first time in Canadian history, a Remoteness Secretariat will be established nationally to address remoteness barriers faced by Indigenous communities across the country.  The Remoteness Secretariat will assist First Nations with data collection, analysis, and other operational supports directed at identifying and quantifying the true costs of remoteness.  These advances are an historic step toward fairness in funding and improving services to care for our children, youth and families.