“The process towards the application of our right to self-determination is already well underway. The judgement of the Court of Appeal of Quebec confirms what we have argued for a long time before many commissions and inquiries. By virtue of the right to self-government, we are in the best position to ensure the wellness of our people and more particularly, our children. The province of Quebec will have to understand that this political desire will not go away, and that any interference will be strongly denounced,” said Ghislain Picard, AFNQL Chief.
“This major event that we are collectively celebrating today confirms that we can develop a system in which we can believe, a system that allows us to determine, for ourselves, how to take care of our own children using distinct modes of governance. In terms of next steps, we ask the Government of Quebec to demonstrate openness and humility by actively collaborating with our communities and organizations for an optimal application of the federal Act and the respective legislation passed by our communities,” said Derek Montour, President of the FNQLHSSC Board of Directors.
After nearly five months of deliberations, the Court of Appeal of Quebec has rendered its judgement today in response to the Government of Quebec’s reference challenging the constitutionality of an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (Bill C-92), which came into force on January 1, 2020.
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) welcome the judgement of the Court of Appeal and will dedicate the time necessary to properly analyze it before reacting to it in detail. One thing is certain, the judgement confirms that the heart of Bill C-92 can continue to beat very strongly; the object and principles also continue to apply. As provided for in Bill C-92, the judgement confirms that the assertion of the inherent right to self-government recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 includes jurisdiction over child and family services, including legislative authority over such services and the execution and enforcement of laws made under that legislative authority.
In addition, the Court of Appeal recalls that a new approach is needed, based on the pillars of federal-provincial cooperation and the consideration of Indigenous peoples as political players and producers of laws. As such, the AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC wish to emphasize the coming into force of the Loi de la protection sociale atikamekw d’Opitciwan (Atikamekw of Opitciwan Social Protection Act), on January 17, 2022, as irrefutable proof of the ability of our Nations to self-govern and exercise their legislative jurisdiction in this area. Approximately fifteen communities are set to follow in the footsteps of the community of Opitciwan with the AFNQL’s full support.
This judgement of the Court of Appeal was rendered while the AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC were taking part, over the past two days, in special consultations and public hearings on Bill 15, which aims to amend the Youth Protection Act(YPA). Consequently, the First Nations unquestionably expect the YPA to be modernized and harmonized in coherence with the principles of Bill C-92 in particular by including therein recognition of and respect for the jurisdiction of the First Nations and Inuit regarding youth protection.
About the AFNQL
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is a political organization that unites 43 First Nations Chiefs in Quebecand Labrador.