Recommendations to improve Indigenous child welfare bill
Bill C-92, which was introduced in the House of Commons in February, is meant to help meet the Government of Canada’s commitment to righting past wrongs when it comes to the treatment of Indigenous children.
The CBA’s Aboriginal, Child and Youth and Family sections call An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families a step in the right direction – but nonetheless a step with shortcomings and ambiguities that risk undermining its good intentions.
Bill C-92 arises from a number of factors – the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s finding in 2016 of severe inequities caused by underfunding of the federal government’s on-reserve child and family services program, and the four non-compliance orders that followed the CHRT finding; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose first five Calls to Action deal with the “woeful state of child and family services for Indigenous children and families;” and a 2017 statement from the Minister of Indigenous Services, which called the state of child and family services for this group a “humanitarian crisis.”
Harms to Indigenous communities over the past century or more “have been recognized by government authorities, (but) there has been slow progress on improvements intended to protect First Nations, Inuit and Métis children,” the Sections say in their submission (need link).
The Sections make recommendations to improve the bill, as follows:
- That the Bill C-92 Preamble expressly commit the government to providing “predictable, stable, sustainable, needs-based and substantively equal funding for child and family services in Indigenous communities,” by changing “acknowledges the call for” to “commits to providing.”
- That a reference to the independence of dispute resolution mechanisms be added.
- That the Preamble reference Parliament’s affirmation of the right of Indigenous children to physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.
- That the Preamble make specific reference to the government’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- That the definition of “care provider” exclude foster parents whose sole connection to a child is through child protection placement.
- That continuity of care and the “possible effect on the child of disruption of that continuity, and the effects on the child of delay in the final outcome of a case” be considered in determining the best interests of an Indigenous child.
- That gender identity and expression be considered among the needs of the child in weighing best interests.
“Without amendments to address these important areas,” the Sections say, “Bill C-92 risks being at best little more than another hollow promise, and at worst an instrument for perpetuating further harm to another generation of Indigenous children.”