Chiefs in Manitoba continue to work to end the child welfare crisis for First Nations families 

A group of First Nations leaders along with Minister Philpott and Parliamentary Secretary Vandal

November 19, 2018

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba



Treaty One Territory, MB – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) hosted an emergency meeting on November 16 on the topic of child and family services for First Nations citizens in Manitoba. The meeting focused on the Bringing Our Children Home Act, a Manitoba-specific federal legislation on children and families.

“Chiefs in Manitoba are working diligently to end the crisis that our children and families are experiencing due to the broken child welfare system in Manitoba,” said Grand Chief Arlen Dumas. “For almost one whole year, our Chiefs have been working to develop the Bringing Our Children Home Act. This Act has been informed through input provided at engagement sessions held with First Nations across Manitoba.”

The Government of Canada indicated its support of this work both through the Memorandum of Understanding they signed in December 2017 along with providing funding to carry out this work. On November 16, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), met with the Chiefs to discuss a way forward to enact the Bringing Our Children Home Act. 

“I want to salute you for the work on the Bringing Our Children Home Act, it’s an extraordinary piece of work. I honour you. It is positive,” stated Minister Philpott at the emergency meeting. “We can absolutely continue to do this work together.”

Minister Philpott explained that the federal government has been hearing concerns about child welfare from First Nations across the country. It has been working to create a set of principles to inform legislation at the federal level that will address the child welfare crisis. This is separate from the Bringing Our Children Home Act that has been created in Manitoba. 

“There are First Nations in other parts of the country that are affected by the same issue. We think there are about 40,000 First Nations kids in care possibly across the country, as you know nobody really knows the number. Manitoba is I think the worst across the country,” explained Minister Philpott. “This is not about the federal government exercising jurisdiction over your kids. This is about the federal government saying you have jurisdiction over your kids and families and acknowledging the power of the nations. Acknowledging your power to assert the jurisdiction that you already have.”

Staff from the AMC will continue to work with staff from ISC to move the Manitoba-specific legislation forward through Parliament. 

“I’m pleased with the outcome of our emergency meeting,” stated Grand Chief Dumas. “The statements we heard from Minister Philpott acknowledge and reaffirms how diligently our leaders have been working to address this crisis. We will continue to focus our efforts on bringing our children home to their respective First Nations throughout Manitoba.”

Key dates leading up to the emergency meeting: 

  • December 2017: The AMC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Canada to begin discussions on the inherent right of First Nations in Manitoba over the well-being of First Nations families and children and the reform of the federal First Nations Child and Family Services Program. 

    Minister Philpott addresses Chiefs at an emergency meeting on November 16, 2018.
  • March 2018: Minister Philpott provided an opportunity to the three Grand Chiefs of Manitoba to develop a federal law to empower First Nations laws on children and families. 
  • July 2018: The AMC received funding from ISC to carry out the work in developing the federal legislation.
  • August to September 2018: The AMC visited 15 First Nations in Manitoba to hear directly from First Nations citizens on whether they support this federal law and to gather traditional knowledge on what the law should include. 
  • September 2018: The AMC completed the draft of the federal legislation, which then went to ceremony and was reviewed by AMC staff, legal experts, the Women’s Council who oversee child and family matters projects, the Executive Council of Chiefs, the Elders’ Council, and the Steering Committee on Laws on Children and Families. 
  • October 24, 2018: The Chiefs-in-Assembly endorsed the Bringing Our Children Home Act.
  • November 16, 2018: Minister Philpott committed that ISC staff will continue to work with First Nations leaders in Manitoba to move forward on the Bringing Our Children Home Act.