THUNDER BAY – Indigenous – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse has issued the following statement on today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on Bill C-92, federal legislation recognizing and affirming First Nations’ jurisdiction over child and family services:
“This decision confirms what NAN First Nations have always known – our children are our jurisdiction, wherever they may reside.
This decision means the federal and provincial governments will have to accept and respect our laws when it comes to our children, youth and families. Today is a good day for Indigenous sovereignty and all First Nations who are developing and asserting their own child welfare laws.
The Act and this decision are positive steps forward, but our communities also need the guaranteed funding required to exercise our jurisdiction, which the Act does not provide.
There is still a long road ahead to ensure that settler governments accept and respect Indigenous laws in all areas. Our inherent right of self-government is broad, just as broad as the Crown’s, and it includes jurisdiction over many particular areas.
We look forward to hearing from the federal government and the Supreme Court on those matters as well.”
Bill C-92: An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families, came into force on January 1, 2020. It affirms that Indigenous peoples have jurisdiction in relation to child and family services through their inherent right to self-government and sets out minimum national standards for the provision of child and family services. Through the Act, Indigenous child and family services laws have the force of federal law. In the event of a conflict between Indigenous and provincial laws, Indigenous laws have priority.
NAN was an intervenor, arguing (in summary) that reconciliation requires accepting and respecting the inherent authority of Indigenous Peoples, as our Nations define it. Reconciliation calls for the Crown’s acceptance that inherent Indigenous authority transcends the doctrine of Aboriginal law under the Crown’s jurisdiction. The Crown must make good on the promise of Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, which was intended to offer a new paradigm defined by respect for the inherent authority and distinct political status of Indigenous peoples.