AMC not impressed with new Act for First Nations family and children, will continue work for full jurisdiction

February 28, 2019

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

TREATY ONE TERRITORY, MB. _ Today in Ottawa, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced an Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

For the past two years the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has led an engagement process that demonstrates the importance of incorporating traditional ways into professional practices. The work we have done with our First Nation communities here in Manitoba clearly demonstrates capacity exists within First Nations to design, implement and carry out activities that would allow communities to restore their jurisdiction over child and family services by creating a culturally informed child welfare model/practice and services.

“As First Nations, we have always possessed our own laws, languages, principles, customs, standards and ways of being and we are now in an era of reconciliation that requires restitution,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

The draft bill does not begin from a perspective that reconciles our sovereign inherent First Nations rights as the first peoples of Turtle Island, which are what we exercised and the Crown acknowledged through the entering of nation-to-nation Treaties. It does not meet the immediate need in addressing the humanitarian child welfare crisis in Manitoba.

The draft bill is contrary to the Manitoba First Nation grassroots Bringing Our Children Home Act. First Nations of Manitoba will continue pursuing the approach it has launched. Our Act was created through engagement with First Nations citizens, directed by the AMC Women’s Council, and guided by the AMC Elders Council and Steering Committee members who are experts to child welfare in Manitoba.

“What’s been announced today in Ottawa is still the status quo of government officials. If the government wants to have true nation-to-nation relationships with First Nations, they need to respect that we have a responsibility to our First Nations children and we have the answers and solution to fix a broken system that was created by both levels of government,” said Chief Francine Meeches, chair of the AMC Women’s Council.

“The promise was to hand over full jurisdiction of child and family well-being directly to our First Nations, period. I’m stating again that we have the right to full jurisdiction over our children and families and we require dedicated CFS funding to First Nations,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

In November 2018, Indigenous Services Canada publically promised and guaranteed that our Manitoba-specific federal legislation Bringing Our Children Home Act would be supported and that we would find a way to ensure it would be honoured and implemented and we expect nothing less,” stated Grand Chief Dumas.

Meanwhile, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs continues to push for full jurisdiction over child and family services. Additionally, AMC is in the process of drafting template First Nations laws for children and families respecting the five language groups in Manitoba by incorporating First Nations values, beliefs, and traditions while taking into account the unique cultural values and languages of the five Nation groups in Manitoba.

“The template laws will be created in the language as it will give First Nations laws more meaning as there is strength of the language that connects us to the land, water, animals and our perspective on life,” said Chief Meeches.

“The duty by Canada to meaningfully consult First Nations has not been discharged. The manner that this draft bill has been put together has not been carried out in good faith and our next steps will be to address the concerns we have raised today,” concluded Grand Chief Dumas.