Current Reality

The number one issue in Child Welfare is the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care. The most recent data from a national perspective is from the 2016 Census published by StatsCan. All other issues flow from the following fact:

Progress on reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care can be viewed through three distinct lenses: federal, provincial and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Federal Actions

  • July 9, 2021: Cowessess First Nation reclaimed its inherent right to look after its own children with the signing of a co-ordination agreement with Saskatchewan and the federal government. This is the first transfer of authority under Bill C-92.
  • June 4, 2021 – The federal government had “conditioned its consent”for the Class Action lawsuit and would only certify the claims if Jordan’s Principle victims from between 1991 and 2007 were removed
  • April 19, 2021 – Budget 2021 announced 1 billion over five years, and $118.7 million ongoing starting in 2021–22, to increase funding under the First Nations Child and Family Services program.
  • Mar. 23, 2021 – Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, announced the launch of a call for proposals to support Indigenous Peoples, communities, and groups as they begin work to develop their own legislation and explore Indigenous-led models for child and family services.
  • Nov. 27, 2020 – The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced funding of $542M over 5 years to support the Indigenous Child Welfare Act and support First Nations, Inuit, and Métis engagement to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and advance the implementation of the Act
  • July 7, 2020 – Government and Assembly of First Nations have signed a Protocol confirming First Nations distinctions-based approach to implementing the Indigenous Child Welfare Act
  • Feb. 12, 2020, The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has filed a federal class action lawsuit to seek damages and justice for the thousands of First Nations children and families that have been discriminated against by Canada’s child welfare system that incentivized the removal of First Nation children from their families and Nations.
    • Sept. 4, 2020: Canadian Press – Federal government has agreed to certify the claims put forward by the Assembly of First Nations and the Moushoom class counsel and enter into mediation to reach a negotiated settlement
  • June 21, 2019 – “Bill C-92 An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families received Royal assent. Co-developed with Indigenous partners, Bill C-92 affirms Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services.

Provincial Actions

  • May 3, 2021 – Research, data, and information collected from consultations with key stakeholders indicate that systemic racism—in the health, education, child welfare, housing, and justice (including policing and corrections) systems—is a major issue facing Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. The Alberta Human Rights Commission is launching an Indigenous Human Rights Strategy to guide the Commission’s practices and initiatives with the goal of reducing barriers that Indigenous individuals and communities face. It also aims to enhance the Commission’s interaction with Indigenous Albertans and communities.
  • Jan. 25, 2021 – Saskatchewan announced that they will end the the use of Birth Alerts on Feb. 1, 2021 as will PEI (Feb. 5, CBC)
  • July 29, 2020 – As of Oct. 15, 2020 Ontario will no longer issue Birth Alerts to apprehend Indigenous babies along with Manitoba (June 30, 2020) and BC (Sept. 16, 2019). Saskatchewan announced on Jan. 25, 2021 that they will end the practice on Feb. 1, 2021. Currently, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec practice birth alerts. (Toronto Star, Jan. 15, 2021)
  • Dec. 19, 2019 – Quebec Government has launched a legal challenge in Quebec Court of Appeal to assess the constitutionality of Bill C-92: An Act Respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Children, Youth and Families. The Quebec and Labrador Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ghislain Picard, called Quebec’s move “shameful” and “unacceptable.” “Defending its so-called jurisdiction is one thing but doing it on the back of our children is another,” said Picard at the time of Quebec’s announcement.
Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Non-Compliance and Procedural Orders and Judicial Reviews

From First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

On Jan. 26, 2016 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) released a ruling (2016 CHRT 2) that found Canada discriminates against First Nations children by providing less child welfare funding to help keep them safe and by not implementing Jordan’s Principle to give them the services they need, when they need them. The CHRT ordered Canada to immediately stop the discrimination and to fully implement Jordan’s Principle. Since the initial ruling, the CHRT has had to issue 20 additional non-compliance and procedural orders to Canada. 

On August 26, 2021, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a letter-decision to clarify and reinforce previous rulings for the purpose of ongoing negotiations and communication between all the parties. The CHRT confirms that funding of buildings and additional capital assets that support the delivery of FNCFS and Jordan’s Principle programs and prevention services must be provided to FNCFS agencies, including small agencies and First Nations. This letter-decision serves as a precursor to a larger order accompanied by reasons. 

2021 CHRT 12    March 17, 2021. Tribunal approves a consent order regarding non-Agency Communities providing child and family services.

2021 CHRT 7      February 12, 2021. Tribunal releases ruling 2021 CHRT 7 “Framework for the Payment of Compensation under 2019 CHRT 39

2021 CHRT 6      February 11, 2021. Tribunal releases ruling 2021 CHRT 6 “Compensation Process Ruling on Four Outstanding Issues in Order to Finalize the Draft Compensation Framework

2020 CHRT 15    May 28, 2020. The Tribunal rules the compensation process on outstanding issues in order to finalize the Draft Compensation Framework. 

2020 CHRT 36    November 25, 2020. Order regarding criteria on the groups of children eligible to receive services through Jordan’s Principle.

2020 CHRT 24    August 11, 2020. Order regarding the Band Representative Services for Ontario First Nations, Tribal Councils and First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies. 

2020 CHRT 20    July 17, 2020. Order on the groups of children eligible to receive services through Jordan’s Principle.

2020 CHRT 17    June 12, 2020. Order on a disclosure issue.

2020 CHRT 7      April 16, 2020. The Tribunal rules on three questions where the Caring Society, Assembly of First Nations and Canada did not reach a consensus and required further guidance from the Tribunal with regard to the draft “Framework for the Payment of Compensation under 2019 CHRT 39.”     

2019 CHRT 11    March 4, 2019. CHRT grants the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) limited interested party status with conditions.

2019 CHRT 39    September 6, 2019. Order for Canada to pay maximum compensation ($40,000) for First Nations children and their families who were negatively impacted by Canada’s discriminatory practices.

2019 CHRT 7      February 21, 2019. Order for non-status First Nations children recognized by their Nation in urgent situations to be covered under Jordan’s Principle until the evidence has been heard regarding the definition of a First Nations child. 

2019 CHRT 1      January 7, 2019. Order for Canada to pay the complainants and the Chiefs of Ontario for compensation for knowingly failing to disclose 90,000 highly-relevant documents to the complaint and for failing to advise the CHRT and the parties at the earliest opportunity.

2018 CHRT 4      February 1, 2018. Order for Canada to undertake a cost analysis First Nations Child and Family Services Program and 1965 Agreement; and, Canada to fund prevention/least disruptive measures on actuals.

2017 CHRT 35    November 2, 2017. Order to amend 2017 CHRT 14 following Canada’s judicial review of certain aspects.

2017 CHRT 14    May 26, 2017. Order regarding immediate relief for Jordan’s Principle.

2017 CHRT 7      March 29, 2017. Order moving forward Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s motion for immediate relief including the Choose Life initiative.

2016 CHRT 16    September 14, 2016. Order for Canada to update its policies, procedures and agreements to comply with the findings in 2016 CHRT 2 with regard to the First Nations Child and Family Services Program, 1965 Agreement and Jordan’s Principle.

2016 CHRT 10    April 26, 2016. Order for Canada to fully implement Jordan’s Principle within two weeks (May 10, 2016). 

2016 CHRT 2      Kids win! In a landmark ruling, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finds the Canadian government is racially discriminating against 165,000 First Nations children. 

https://fncaringsociety.com/i-am-witness-tribunal-timeline-and-documents

CHRT Judicial reviews

First Judicial Review: Ruling on immediate relief concerning Jordan’s Principle, cited as 2017 CHRT 14 (“the May 26th Orders”).

On June 23, 2017, Canada filed an application for judicial review of certain aspects of the May 26th Orders, seeking to quash paragraphs thereof prohibiting Canada from engaging in case conferencing and requiring Canada to complete the initial evaluation and determination of requests within 12-48 hours of receipt

Tribunal Decision

The Tribunal noted that the manner in which Canada limits funding for prevention services is not an acceptable fiscal or social policy and is harming First Nations children as a result. Canada is taking an overly narrow approach to honouring Jordan’s Principle that applies to all First Nations children in need of care, regardless of where they reside. The ruling sets out a number of directives and timelines for Canada to comply with Jordan’s Principle.

Second Judicial Review: Decision to award $2B in damages to approximately 53,000 Indigenous children and youth wrongly removed or denied essential services.

Tribunal Decision:

On September 29th, 2021, Justice Favel of the Federal Court released his decision on two matters put forward by Canada for Judicial Review, in cases T-1559-20 and T-1621-19. 

The Federal Court has dismissed Ottawa’s appeals of two human rights tribunal rulings concerning First Nations child welfare compensation and protection. The court upheld a 2019 ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that ordered Ottawa to pay $40,000 — the maximum amount permitted under the Canadian Human Rights Act — to thousands of First Nations children and their families.

T-1559-20 and T-1621-19 Judgment and Reasons

Third Judicial Review: Capital Costs award decision

On September 24, 2021, Canada filed for Judicial Review on the Letter Decision issued by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on August 26, 2021.

Notice of Application for Judicial Review 

Calls to Action

There are five Child Welfare Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government responses and progress to date, visit the links below.

Call to Action #1Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care
Call to Action #2Publish annual child welfare reports: Indigenous vs non-Indigenous
Call to Action #3Fully implement Jordan’s Principle
Call to Action #4Enact Indigenous Child Welfare legislation
Call to Action #5Develop culturally appropriate parenting program for Indigenous families

Current Problems and Issues in Child Welfare

Jordan’s Principle

Jordan’s Principle funding for Indigenous child determined to be “too expensive” with no budgetary guidance for alternative treatment

Nov. 5, 2020: Oakville Beaver – This past June, Jordan’s Principle abruptly cut funding for his daughter’s treatment, saying it was “too expensive,” said the girl’s father, Stephen Paquette, Indigenous Knowledge Guide for the Halton District School Board. Despite repeated requests, Indigenous Services Canada has so far refused to provide any budgetary guidance so he can find less expensive alternatives for her complex medical treatment currently delivered through Indigenous Child Services Management whose services are comprehensive, holistic and preventative and most important – Indigenous.

“There are lots of services and supports out there (but) I find the struggle, the challenge, is that they don’t understand or appreciate the Indigenous world view and lived experience.” Time is of the essence for his daughter, but the judicial review he has instigated could take months, said Paquette. A judicial review is a court process which looks at administrative body decisions to ensure they are fair and lawful. Recently, however, Paquette’s lawyer was able to negotiate interim funding from Jordan’s Principle for four weeks of treatment with ISCM, but not for the number of hours his daughter requires, said Paquette.

Manitoba seeks judicial review to clarify legal responsibilities of federal and provincial governments in covering Jordan’s Principle

Aug. 19, 2020: CBC – A Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision found a First Nations family was discriminated against “on the basis of their ancestry as Anishinaabe people and the disability of Dewey a teen who wasn’t able to access consistent health care on reserve because of jurisdictional disputes and systemic discrimination…The province maintaining the federal government is responsible for providing health care and related services in First Nations communities”. The MHRC adjudicator noted that “The same problems did not afflict neighbouring non-First Nations communities, and those residents enjoyed health care and related services without denial, delay, or interruption.”

Sept. 16, 2020: Manitoba Government – is seeking a judicial review of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision to award damages to a First Nations family. “All Manitobans deserve to know what services they can access when they need them, and we believe this ruling confuses rather than clarifies which level of government is responsible for providing health care and related services to First Nations people living on reserve,” said Eileen Clarke, Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister. “A judicial review of this decision will bring much-needed attention to the legal obligations of federal and provincial governments, and bring clarity to this important issue.”

Bill C-92 The Indigenous Child Welfare Act

Government of Quebec’s request that the Quebec Court of Appeal rule on the constitutionality of Bill C-92: The Child Welfare Act.

Dec. 20, 2019 – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the Government of Quebec’s decision to request that the Quebec Court of Appeal rule on the constitutionality of Bill C-92, the Indigenous child welfare act, is a setback that will further harm First Nations children and families.

This move could lead to delay and conflict, further harming our children and families. The AFN will look to intervene in this case and we expect the federal government to stand with us in upholding First Nations jurisdiction. We need urgent action to address the discrimination and the legacy of our children taken from their families and Nations. Bill C-92 affirms First Nations jurisdiction over child welfare.

Feb. 12, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) presented a joint brief to the Laurent Commission (Special Commission on the Rights of Children and Youth Protection) aimed in particular at reaffirming the rights of First Nations to decide on the future and education of their children. The two organizations made recommendations that affect Act C-92, Bill 31, which aims to authorize the communication of personal information concerning certain missing or deceased Aboriginal children to their families, and the Youth Protection Act (YPA). The AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC have reiterated their constitutional right to manage family support and youth protection services, according to Act C-92, and are asking the Government of Quebec to withdraw its dispute and negotiate coordination agreements in good faith with First Nations governments and Canada. With regard to the YPA, they are also calling for:

  • Indigenous children to be exempted from the application of the maximum periods of foster care and
  • that the regulation on financial assistance to promote the adoption and tutorship of a child be amended.

More generally, the two organizations recommend that Quebec implement measures that respond appropriately to the calls for justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the calls to action of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec.

Federal Government – Yellowhead Institute Issues with “Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families

March 21, 2019 – “Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, youth and families” was graded as follows by the Yellowhead Institute of Ryerson University based on analysis by five Indigenous legal scholars. (See also First Nations Child and Family Caring Society Information Brief in C2A # 4)

GRADES:
      National Standards: …………………… C
      Funding: ……………………………………….F
      Accountability: …………………………… D
      Jurisdiction: ……………………………….. D
      Data Collection and Reporting: ….D

Yellowhead Institute Recommendations (See also

National Standards

  • Ensure that standards exist in law so that Indigenous children do not automatically become government wards without significant efforts are made to maintain familial and community care. 
  • Require ongoing legal relationships, or at the least, access to children’s family of origin. 
  • Include strong, mandatory language around BIOC to address judicial bias and overtake any binding precedents in this area. 
  • Include “active efforts” or “maximum contact” clauses in relation to Indigenous child welfare with First Nations have not taken over full jurisdiction. 
  • A requirement of written documentation of active efforts to find placements according to the priority set out or affidavit evidence from the Indigenous group that there is no available placement. And/or a presumption that an access order with some family or community member and a long-term funding commitment for regular travel back to the community is included as a term of any permanency order.

Funding 

  • Attach clear federal funding commitments for First Nations pursuing child welfare jurisdiction. 
  • Ensure funding reflects the principle of substantive equality and which also meets the needs and circumstances of children on reserve 
  • Ensure off-reserve, Métis, non-status and Inuit children and families are included in budgets, distinct from non-Indigenous children and families. 
  • Compel coordination between federal and provincial governments regarding incentives to cooperate and adequately fund Indigenous governing bodies to implement Jordan’s Principle. 

Accountability

  • Establish a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with situations where Indigenous groups experience challenges in entering collaboration agreements with Canada and the provinces, in the cases they are required. 
  • Create an independent body to hear disputes and make binding decisions on all parties. 

Jurisdiction

  • Recognize jurisdiction as a right to self- determination under UNDRIP rather than a s. 35 right. 
  • Set a clear path out of the existing jurisdictional squabbling between the provincial and federal governments. 
  • Revise paramountcy rules so they are clear enough for, and accessible to community members, so that can understand in time sensitive or emergency circumstances. 
  • Contain clear conflict of laws principles and processes that give real weight to Indigenous law-making authority and jurisdiction. 
  • Address the long-standing issue of services to First Nations children who are residing off-reserve, as well as non-status, Métis and Inuit children. 
  • Provide clarity and direction on how the “Best Interests Of the Child” (BIOC) standard will be defined regarding the applicability of laws. At minimum this should clarify a standard for best interests of the Indigenous child— determined by Indigenous legal and community standards—and dictate the application of federal and provincial laws to Indigenous children. 
  • Clearly and openly resolve the lack of funding for Indigenous law-making, administration and enforcement as well as funding for the preventative of child and family health. 

Data Collecting and Reporting

  • Mandate collection and publication of data along the lines of TRC Call to Action #2 
  • Address privacy issues by anonymized and displaying data in aggregate. 
Child and Youth Advocate Reports

BC Child and Youth Advocate report “Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act

Jan. 19, 2021CityNews 1130 – BC Child and Youth Advocate report “Detained: Rights of Children and Youth under the Mental Health Act” found involuntary detentions of B.C. youth rose 162 per cent between 2008 and 2018. In fact, B.C. is the only province in Canada where a capable, involuntary patient has no right to make psychiatric treatment decisions. The unique significance of how First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous people experience mental health detentions is also considered in this report, given the multitude of ways in which the rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples have been limited and interfered with throughout colonization, residential schools and the child welfare system. Although the involuntary detention of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children and youth under the Mental Health Act may be intended for their safety and protection, it can be seen and experienced as another link in a long chain of oppression imposed by the state on Indigenous peoples. Of concern to the Representative is the racism experienced by First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous children and youth in hospitals, as documented in the recent report In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care, and the absence of culturally safe and relevant services and supports.

This report found that the number of children and youth who are receiving involuntary mental health services has increased alarmingly. In the 10 years between 2008/09 and 2017/18, these admissions rose from 973 to 2,545 – or 162 per cent. This raises troubling questions about the adequacy of the voluntary, community-based system of care and treatment and its ability to avoid unnecessary involuntary detention. Clearly, the time has come for government to devote special attention to how the Mental Health Act can be improved in its operation and administration to better protect and respect the voice and the interests of children and youth it affects in such profound ways.

The report identifies 14 specific recommendations, a number of which apply specifically to First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and youth.

Joint Submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People: “Study on the rights of the Indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

Mar. 2, 2021: The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY) and the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba submitted a report that discusses “the international and national human rights framework as it relates to structural inequalities and Indigenous children’s right to continuous improvement of health with a particular focus on infant mortality and youth suicide in Manitoba, Canada. Specific issues raised for discussion include …the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person, access to justice (preamble, and articles, 6, 7, 8, 22 and 43) and non-discrimination, health, housing (as part of the right to an adequate standard of living and non-discrimination), culture, and education (articles 14, 17, 21)”. The focus on Manitoba includes:

  • one in two First Nations children, one in four Metis, one in four Inuit, and one in six non-Indigenous children in Manitoba live in poverty, all higher than in Canada overall.
  • Indigenous infants account for between 20-30% of live births in Manitoba between 2009 and 2018, but represent at least 57% of sleep-related infant deaths
  • Only 24 of 63 First Nations communities in Manitoba have maternal-child health programs, some of which are ‘pilot’ programs that lack permanent or sustainable funding
  • .20 of 22 suicides of female youth between 2012 and 2019 and who were involved with the child welfare system were Indigenous
  • while approximately 26% of the child population in Manitoba are Indigenous, they account for approximately 90% of children in the care of child and family service agencies
  • 78% of children, youth, and young adults served by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth through ongoing advocacy supports during the 2019/20 fiscal year were Indigenous.
  • A study of the overlap between Manitoba’s child welfare and justice systems found that close to one-third of children in care were later charged with a crime as a youth (age 12-17). This study confirmed that the child welfare system in Manitoba serves as a ‘pipeline’ to the youth criminal justice system
  • Indigenous youth in Manitoba are 16 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous youth
  • In 2016, only 48% of Indigenous students graduated high school “on-time”, compared to 86% of their non-Indigenous counterparts

Recommendations form the “Joint Submission to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People: Study on the rights of the Indigenous child under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

ONE: Take steps to include the voices, experiences, perspectives, and testimony of Indigenous children and youth to the largest extent possible in any decision or work that may affect them, as enshrined by Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

TWO: Acknowledge the ongoing work towards reconciliation and the fulfillment of Indigenous children’s rights in Canada by evaluating and commenting on the Government of Canada’s compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Actions designed to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation in Canada and recommendations made in Honouring the Truth, Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

THREE: Recognize the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples by highlighting Indigenous-led initiatives to fulfill the rights of Indigenous children including maternal- child health programs and youth suicide prevention programs that provide children with the culturally appropriate services they are entitled to receive.

FOUR: Through the development of this study, create opportunities for Indigenous practitioners and advocates around the world to come together to generate connections, and share information and best practices.

FIVE: In order to understand the differential experiences of Indigenous children and youth, the challenges they face, as well as existing gaps in the social determinants of health, it is imperative that governments systematically collect data on Indigenous ancestry, with attention to the principles of ownership, control, access, possession (OCAP®) and principles of Ethical Métis Research. Currently, this gap in information prevents a full understanding of the structural inequalities facing Indigenous children and youth.

SIX: Ensure ethical considerations are upheld and respected in all aspects of this study and any research or data collection involving Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous children in particular, conducted by governments and other parties. Ethical considerations concerning research for and by Indigenous Peoples should involve free prior informed consent on a collective and individual basis; principles are followed to ensure Indigenous ownership, control, access, and possession of their own data and information; and all research should be respectful and benefit Indigenous Peoples.

SEVEN: Examine the role of fiscal policies that continuously underfund services for Indigenous infants, children, and their families (including schools, mental health services, and prenatal and postnatal supports) as a barrier for the realization of Indigenous children’s right to health.

EIGHT: Recognize the centrality of addressing Indigenous child poverty at the national level as a necessary condition of fulfilling Indigenous children’s right to non- discrimination and health.

NINE: Prioritize analysis of the role of the child welfare system and ongoing apprehension of Indigenous children from their families as this is in direct violation of the right of Indigenous children to a family life, to health, to culture, and to a future.

https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021-03-1-UNDRIP_Joint_Submission.pdf

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth released a new special report, “Still Waiting: Investigating Child Maltreatment after the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry

Mar. 11, 2021: Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth – released a new special report, “Still Waiting: Investigating Child Maltreatment after the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry” that examines the lives of 19 children who died after being severely maltreated while under the age of five. Roughly seven years after the final report from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry “Still Waiting” from the Acting Manitoba Advocate tracks the province’s progress on Hughes’ 62 recommendations and in her report makes five more recommendations for child safety and system change.

“What Manitobans will see in our independent report is not nearly enough change has occurred within public systems and child-serving organizations to protect kids. This should be among our highest priorities as adults,” said Ainsley Krone, the Acting Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.

“Children are still dying of maltreatment similar to what Phoenix Sinclair experienced and what is clear is that systemic inequities and social determinants of health are contributing factors in these deaths,” she continued.” More resources and improved supports for families and communities in Manitoba are needed to help them with preventing child maltreatment. Too often, help still arrives after a child’s death, when what families need is help much earlier in establishing safety so children are protected.”

In Hughes’ inquiry report from 2014, he laid out 62 recommendations to better protect Manitoba children after the death of five-year-old Phoenix in June 2005. Despite his recommendations for sweeping changes and repeated acknowledgements by the provincial government in years since that improvements are underway, the Advocate’s latest investigation found that progress has been slow.

According to the Advocate’s analysis, 55 per cent of Hughes’ recommendations have been completed so far, seven years after the release of his report. At the current rate of progress, it will be 2028 before all of the recommendations are completed.

Some major changes have occurred in Manitoba’s child welfare system in the past 15 years, including the continued devolution of the system, new child welfare agencies being established, and, more recently, federal legislation aimed at ensuring children can be looked after by their home communities, with sovereign systems for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. While these large-scale changes alter jurisdictions, legal mandates, stakeholder responsibilities, and other structural factors, the Advocate’s office continues to question whether outcomes and safety for children are improving.

Seven years after the conclusion of the public inquiry, the provincial government has yet to proactively release a complete status report on the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry’s recommendations.

Krone’s five recommendations made to the provincial government and child welfare authorities are:

RECOMMENDATION ONE (System Level): The Government of Manitoba must implement the outstanding recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry.

RECOMMENDATION TWO (Community Level): Consistent with Call to Action 5 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Government of Manitoba must work with First Nations and Metis governments and community stakeholders to ensure access to evidence-informed and culturally-safe parenting programs and resources for caregivers of children under the age of five across Manitoba, with attention to rural and remote communities.

RECOMMENDATION THREE (Organization Level): Each child and family services authority must develop and provide the necessary resources to implement a culturally-appropriate reunification policy within their agencies.

RECOMMENDATION FOUR (Direct Service Level): Each child and family services authority must ensure their agencies complete case reviews for every child in care under age five, for whom reunification is planned.

RECOMMENDATION FIVE (Direct Service Level): The Department of Families, through the Joint Training Team, must develop and administer mandatory training for front line workers and supervisors on the risk and protective factors of child maltreatment and best practices for reunification.

Failure of Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to respond to Child Advocate report on Inuit children in child welfare

June 24, 2021 – The Honourable John G. Abbott, Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, in collaboration with the Honourable Lisa Dempster, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation and Labrador Affairs tabled the “Report on Child Welfare Services to Indigenous Children, Youth and Families 2019-20”. This report is in response to Recommendation 33 of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate’s report A Long Wait for Change: Independent Review of Child Welfare Services to Inuit Children in Newfoundland and Labrador (2019).

As the first comprehensive public reporting of information about child welfare services to Indigenous children, youth and families, it sets the baseline from which the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development and Indigenous Governments and Organizations will continue working together to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care.

Among other findings, the report details an overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care, at 36 per cent, when the Indigenous population is 12 per cent. It also notes that while 70 per cent of Indigenous children and youth entering care were placed within their communities or culture, 30 per cent were not. Collectively, actions are being taken to improve these findings. Early positive results show a 42 per cent reduction in the number of Indigenous children and youth coming into care since 2018. The Report provides information to aid in understanding Indigenous client demographics and reasons for child welfare involvement.

June 10, 2021 – The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Innu Nation today announced the appointment of retired Provincial Court Judge James Igloliorte as Chief Commissioner for the Commission of Inquiry into the Treatment, Experiences and Outcomes of Innu in the Child Protection System. The Chief Commissioner will be joined by Anastasia Qupee of Sheshatshiu, former Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, and Dr. Mike Devine, retired Associate Professor of the School of Social Work, Memorial University, who are appointed as Commissioners of the Inquiry.

The Commission of Inquiry is guided by a shared commitment of the Innu Nation, the Mushuau Innu First Nation, the Sheshatshiu First Nation, and the Provincial Government to ensure the safety and well-being of, and to act in the best interests of, Innu children and youth.

The Inquiry will involve a range of processes, including: reviewing relevant documents and records, considering the need for specialized research, and conducting community sessions and hearings. The Provincial Government allocated $4.2 million in Budget 2021 to establish the Commission of Inquiry into the Treatment, Experiences and Outcomes of Innu in the Child Protection System this year.

June 15, 2020 – Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Newfoundland and Labrador issued a Statement of Concern – Unacceptable Delay in Establishing Inquiry for Innu Children in the Child Protection System. The Innu are still waiting three years after the Provincial Government made a commitment to establish a formal Inquiry into the treatment of Innu children in the child welfare system.

The report contained 33 recommendations and was entitled ‘A Long Wait for Change.’ The title was carefully chosen and reflected the extraordinary and unacceptable amount of time for changes to be made for these vulnerable children. In part, the report documented decades of work to identify issues and recommendations for Indigenous children and their families and communities, and which included various Inquiries, Commissions, legislation, and reviews. It is troubling that many of my findings were neither new nor unique to this province. However, it put many issues in one place, and in a local context.

Quebec Government, Ministry of Health and Social Services and Ministry Delegate for Health and Social Services for lack of progress on recommendations on child and youth protection services in Nunavik

Mar. 25, 2019 – The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse raised concerns about the lack of progress on the implementation of recommendations from their 2007 report on child and youth protection services in Nunavik, a follow-up report in 2010, in 2014 and again in 2016. In March 2018, the Commission presented these findings to the “Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress“. (The Viens Commission)

“The Commission reiterates the urgency to act in order to create favourable conditions for these communities so they can finally ensure real protection for their rights through the implementation of concrete support measures, in particular by allocating sufficient resources to solve urgent problems related to housing, education, drug addiction and access to health and social services in the field of youth protection.”

Philippe-André Tessier, President, The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

Are They Listening“: report of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth

Nov. 13, 2020: Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth – Issued “Are They Listening?” her first public compliance report summarizing the provincial government’s responses to the Advocate’s recommendations issued in 2018 and 2019. “While there is movement, it is disappointing to note that over a period of two years, only two recommendations for service improvements have been implemented fully, and less than half (43%) of recommendations have achieved positive compliance assessments.

Of all the government departments monitored by the Advocate, compliance levels are as follows:

  • Justice: Partially compliant at 50%
    • Significant improvements overseeing pepper spray use and communicating victim services benefits to eligible children and youth.
    • Significant work remains on the issues of segregation and solitary confinement use in youth custody facilities.
  • Education & Training: Compliance limited at 38%
    • made some improvements and taken early steps to address chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions.
  • Families: Mid-level compliance at 35%
    • made investments to comply with recommendations on child and youth sexual exploitation,
    • have only taken early steps to address improvements to the quality assurance of child welfare services.
    • Additional areas that remain concerning include staff training and knowledge as well as outdated service standards.
  • Health, Seniors and Active Living: low compliance rating averaging 25%.
    • Improving mental health and addiction services lag behind and have not progressed significantly since they were issued.
    • Child death reviews and investigations continue to see this as an area with significant gaps for children, youth, young adults, and their families

The 23 recommendations were issued in the first four special reports under The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, which came into force in spring 2018. The 23 recommendations were from:

  • Documenting the Decline: The Dangerous Space Between Good Intentions and Meaningful Interventions (2018) – Circling Star, 
  • In Need of Protection: Angel’s Story (2018) (38% compliant)
  • Learning from Nelson Mandela: A Report on the Use of Solitary Confinement and Pepper Spray in Manitoba Youth Custody Facilities (2019) (42% compliant)
  • A Place Where it Feels Like Home: The Story of Tina Fontaine (2019). (45% compliant)

Nov. 19,2020 – Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC)In 2018, without involvement or engagement of First Nations in Manitoba or the AMC, the Province of Manitoba unilaterally passed The Advocate for Children and Youth Act that expanded the scope and authority of MACY. As part of their expanded mandate, the MACY is now able to publicly report on the government’s progress regarding recommendations made in various reports. From 2018 to 2020, MACY identified 23 recommendations to improve government services as it pertains to children and youth. However, the compliance rate to implement these recommendations is significantly lower.

“Many of the recommendations in these reports were informed by the tragic loss of First Nations children and youth who were chronically underserved by government systems. Our First Nations children are grossly overrepresented in these systems including 90% of First Nations children in the provincial foster care system, and 80% of Indigenous youth in the Manitoba youth justice system,” stated Chief Francine Meeches, Chair of the AMC Women’s Council.

In addition to the lack of compliance, the report identified that due to the lack of comprehensive youth-focused mental health supports, the province has been utilizing Child and Family Services and the justice system to intervene in crisis situations. It was further identified that front line workers in the child welfare system are not adequately equipped to respond to high-risk interventions; as a result of a lack of training in the implementation of the provincial minimum standards under the Child and Family Services Act. “This is an issue of deeply rooted systemic racism in the Province of Manitoba, coupled with what appears to be strategic underfunding of preventive care needed to support these vulnerable children. The province of Manitoba needs to do more than perpetuate the status quo,” concluded Chief Francine Meeches.

Three critical barriers to the implementation of recommendations:

  1. Publicly release and take action on existing reviews into child serving systems, including the youth justice system review and the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education review
  2. Release an action plan with timelines to implement the youth-specific recommendations issued in the government’s 2018 Improving Access and Coordination of Mental Health and Addiction Services: A Provincial Strategy for all Manitobans (also known as the Virgo Report). In addition to an action plan and timelines, the government of Manitoba needs to commit appropriate resources to eliminate service barriers and improve mental health outcomes for children and youth, and
  3. Ensure that the four child and family services authorities and the Department of Families engage their respective legislated roles and responsibilities to ensure that training for workers and supervisors is adequately resourced, accessible, and monitored. Further, they must ensure that minimum service standards are clarified and effective, and that a quality assurance framework is developed and used to verify that all families receive the standards of service to which they are entitled. This is of particular importance during a time of significant transition with the coming- into-force of federal CFS legislation.
Federal/Provincial/ Territory/ Institutional Issues

Southern Chiefs Organization in Manitoba criticized the 2021 provincial budget cuts for foster care and child protection dropping below $500 million for the first time in four years

April 9, 2021 – Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) criticized the 2021 provincial budget cuts for foster care and child protection, with the budget dropping below $500 million for the first time in four years. The province claims that efficiencies are the reason for the decreasing budget, but for too long, children in care, 90% of whom are Indigenous, have received inadequate support and investments from the province.

“I’m completely astounded that the provincial government is making cuts to children in care at this time,” stated Deborah Smith, Chair of the Chiefs’ Standing Committee on Child Welfare and Chief of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. “They already illegally claw back the Children’s Special Allowance payments, money that comes from the federal government meant for children in care, in order to balance the budget. Now they are further undermining these children’s wellbeing and future opportunities by cutting the budget to its lowest in years.”

Release of “Mashkiwenmi-daa Noojimowin: Let’s Have Strong Minds for the Healing” is the first report of the First Nations Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect-2018

May 3, 2021 – Mashkiwenmi-daa Noojimowin: Let’s Have Strong Minds for the Healing is the first report of the First Nations Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect-2018 (FNOIS-2018). Objectives and Scope

The primary objective of the OIS- 2018 is to provide reliable estimates of the scope and characteristics of child abuse and neglect investigated by child welfare services in Ontario in 2018. Specifically, the FNOIS-2018 is designed to:

  1. examine the rate of incidence and characteristics of investigations involving First Nations children and families compared to non-Indigenous children and families;
  2. determine rates of investigated and substantiated physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to intimate partner violence
    as well as multiple forms of maltreatment;
  3. investigate the severity of maltreatment as measured by forms of maltreatment, duration, and physical and emotional harm;
  4. examine selected determinants of health that may be associated with maltreatment; and
  5. monitor short-term investigation outcomes, including substantiation rates, out-of-home placement, and use of child welfare court.

Comparison between First Nations and non-Indigenous:

  • child welfare investigations approximately three times more likely for a First Nations child
  • Greater incidence of physical abuse (.5x), sexual abuse (3x), neglect (4.5x), emotional maltreatment (2x), exposure to intimate partner violence (3x) , risk of future maltreatment investigation (3.5x)
  • Transfers to ongoing services: 6 x greater
  • Out-of-home placement is 12.4 x greater
  • Household risk factors:
    • Social Assistance, Employment or other benefit (2 x);

The differences in rates between First Nations and non-Indigenous children and investigations must be understood in the context of understanding the impact of colonialism and the resulting trauma to children, families and communities.

The Québec “Special Commission on the Rights of the Child and Youth Protection (Laurent Commission)”, released their Final Report

May 3, 2021 – The Special Commission on the Rights of the Child and Youth Protection (Laurent Commission), released their Final Report. The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) would like to thank the commissioners, …for their openness to including a chapter dedicated to First Nations and Inuit and recommending changes to Quebec legislation based on the needs expressed during the hearings. However, the time has come for our nations to determine the future and wellness of our families and children through child and family services that are designed and administered by our own governments. “For a long time, Canada and Quebec have acted as if they knew better than us for what was good for our people. Clearly, they were wrong. For example, data shows that First Nations children are six times more likely than non-Indigenous children to have their security or their development deemed by the youth protection system to be compromised. Thanks to An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (Bill C-92), we have the opportunity to regain control over our lives, and that’s exactly what we intend to do,” said Derek Montour, President of the FNQLHSSC Board of Directors.

“We welcome the efforts of the Laurent Commission on improving the application of the Quebec Youth Protection Act but our primary focus, as First Nations Chiefs, will be to continue focusing our efforts on supporting First Nations jurisdictions exercising their inherent rights in child and family services, which includes legislative authority in relation to those services and authority to administer and enforce laws made under that legislative authority,” continued Richard O’Bomsawin, Chief of Odanak, political representative of the regional Committee of Experts and member of the Chiefs Committee on Child and Family Services and Self-Determination.

“First Nations have the right to self-determination, including the inherent right to self-government, which includes jurisdiction over child and family services. We reiterate that we will never accept that our rights are subordinated to those of another people, especially when it comes to the wellness of our children, youth and families. We believe that reforming the legislative framework for youth protection in Quebec, in a complementary fashion with and in support of the governance and laws of the First Nations, is a fundamental matter. We are counting on the full cooperation of the Government of Quebec in this regard,” concluded the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

Government of Manitoba’s Bill 2 “The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act” claws back $338M in Children’s Special Allowance meant for First Nations children and bars First Nations from taking the government to court to challenge the Act.

April 14, 2020: Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – are seriously concerned about Manitoba fast tracking Bill 2, The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act. If passed, the Bill will have serious implications on First Nations children in care. On March 19, 2020 the Manitoba government introduced Bill 2. The Bill is currently seeking to legalize Manitoba’s actions of recovering the Child Special Allowance since January 1, 2005, when they started taking the child tax credit away. In 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the off -reserve children who had their CSA’s clawed back. A trial date is set for this September. But if Bill 2 passes by September the Manitoba government would not be held responsible for their actions and the lawsuit would be invalid.

“From 2005 to 2019, approximately $338 million dollars of the Child Special Allowance (CSA) funds meant for First Nations children in care were stolen by the provincial government. This is an illegal action. We have a government trying to justify their actions, wiping their hands clean from the claw backs of the CSA by protecting themselves from any legal recourse through Bill 34,” stated Chief Karen Batson of Pine Creek First Nation. ”This is a human rights violation and is another example of how the provincial government has neglected children in care in the past, present, and now future,” concluded Chief Batson.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO), the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) are particularly concerned by section 8, “which sets out to legally end the ability of current and former children in care to sue the Manitoba government for clawing back their monthly Children’s Special Allowance (CSA).

Oct. 7, 2020 – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Official Opposition Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberal Party, denounce and reject Bill 2 and stand in opposition against the Provincial government’s approach to denying First Nations families and children access to justice. Section 84 of the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act will retroactively legalize Manitoba’s actions since January 1, 2005, as well as take away the right to any reparations for the children and families affected by the practice of clawing back the Children’s Special Allowance.

A class action lawsuit in the amount of $338 million dollars was filed against the Provincial government on behalf of First Nation children in care who are victims of the government’s actions of capturing the Children’s Special Allowance. If Bill 2 passes, the class action lawsuit will be void and First Nation families and children will not receive compensation for the injustice they went through.

Nov. 6, 2020 – Bill 2, the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act, is passed.

Nov. 9, 2020 – The Southern Chiefs Organization and the Manitoba Métis Federation along with a group of 19 Indigenous child and family Agencies and Authorities announced their intent to file a challenge.

Dec. 15, 2020 – they filed a constitutional legal challenge against Manitoba’s Bill 2. Bill 2 is Manitoba’s attempt to legalize the theft of CSA money from Indigenous children, the most vulnerable group in Manitoba. It is also Manitoba’s attempt to escape legal accountability for the theft.  This is wrong,” said Harold Cochrane, legal counsel, Cochrane Saxberg LLP.

Quebec First Nation’s brief to Laurent Commission affirming First Nations right to look after their own children

Feb. 12, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) presented a joint brief to the Laurent Commission (Special Commission on the Rights of Children and Youth Protection) aimed in particular at reaffirming the rights of First Nations to decide on the future and education of their children. The two organizations made recommendations that affect Act C-92, Bill 31, which aims to authorize the communication of personal information concerning certain missing or deceased Aboriginal children to their families, and the Youth Protection Act (YPA). The AFNQL and the FNQLHSSC have reiterated their constitutional right to manage family support and youth protection services, according to Act C-92, and are asking the Government of Quebec to withdraw its dispute and negotiate coordination agreements in good faith with First Nations governments and Canada. With regard to the YPA, they are also calling for:

  • Indigenous children to be exempted from the application of the maximum periods of foster care and
  • that the regulation on financial assistance to promote the adoption and tutorship of a child be amended.

More generally, the two organizations recommend that Quebec implement measures that respond appropriately to the calls for justice of the “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” and the calls to action of the “Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec“.

City of Montreal and Batshaw Youth and Family Centre  for chronic “institutional” issues in Indigenous child welfare

Nov. 19, 2019 – (APTN): Release of “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Child Welfare Services for indigenous clientele living in Montreal” presents a scathing analysis of Indigenous youth care in the Montreal area. Assembled over three years by stakeholders from the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, Concordia University, Rising Sun Daycare, and the Youth Department of the public health network, Centre Integre Universitaire de Sante et de Services Sociaux Ouest de l’ile de Montreal (CIUSSS-ODIM), the goal of the project was to “gain a better understanding of the ways Indigenous children and families are responded to by the child welfare system in Montreal.” Some of the issues identified in the report include:

  • Children from Nunavik were told to stop speaking in Inuktitut
  • all Inuit children were placed with non-Indigenous foster families
  • apprehended children wished to remain in contact with their family but were denied access by social workers or foster families.
  • Children removed from home are not offered any emotional support and siblings are often denied contact or access to each other
  • Foster families lack of knowledge and sensitization has resulted in racist comments and prejudice towards the children’s parents

At the time of the report’s publication, Batshaw “did not employ any Indigenous people.” Of the health network’s estimated 10,000 employees, there are less than 10 Indigenous employees. Even the network’s sole “Indigenous liaison” is non-Indigenous.

The “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” report identifies 22 Recommendations under the following themes:

  • Education for Non-Indigenous Staff, Leaders and Decision-Makers (3 aligned with 8 Viens Commission Calls for Action)
  • Representations (7 aligned with 4 Viens Commission Calls to Action)
  • Policy Level Changes (12 aligned with 10 Viens Commission Calls to Action)

CIUSSS-ODIM is to deliver an annual progress report with the first report due in Dec 15, 2020

Federal Government and Government of Ontario – Deaths of Indigenous children in care

Sept. 25, 2019 – 72 Indigenous children connected to child welfare died in northern Ontario, where three Indigenous agencies covering most of the territory were underfunded approximately $400 million over a five-year period.

The number of deaths jumps to 102 Indigenous children when looking at the entire province between 2013 to 2017.  Almost half of the deaths, 48 in total, happened in the two years it took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond to multiple orders made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that first found Canada guilty of purposely underfunding on-reserve child welfare in its historic decision on Jan. 26, 2016. 
Suicide = 38; Accident = 24; Undetermined = 22; Natural = 17; Homicide = 1 (APTN)

But while the federal government may be the bagman, funding at least 93 per cent of on-reserve child welfare, the Ontario government created the system where these children died and provides the law within which the child welfare agencies operate. It’s a system that has been found to be a complete failure over and over up until just last year when the chief coroner of Ontario released a special report into the deaths of 12 children who died in care, eight of whom were Indigenous. During the five-year period between 2013 and 2017 the coroner lists 541 deaths involving child welfare and 102 were Indigenous. Indigenous people represent less than three per cent of Ontario’s population.
https://aptnnews.ca/2019/09/25/inside-a-child-welfare-system-where-102-indigenous-kids-died-over-5-years/

“Safe with Intervention” – Report of the Expert Panel on the deaths of Children and Youth in residential Placements September 2018. Office of the Chief Coroner

To the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario:

  •  Immediately provide equitable, culturally and spiritually safe and relevant services to Indigenous young people, families and communities in Ontario. 

To the Ministries of Children, Community and Social Services, Education, Health and Long-Term Care, and Indigenous Affairs: 

  • Identify and provide a set of core services and support an integrated system of care for young people and their families across a wholistic continuum to every child in Ontario. Services must include health, mental health and wellbeing, education, recreation, child care, children’s mental health, early intervention services, prevention services and developmental services. Service provision should be geared to the needs and intensity of needs, of each young person and family. 
  • Develop a wholistic approach to the identification of, service planning for and service provision to high-risk young people (with or without child welfare involvement) that supports continuity of care to age 21 years. 
  • Strengthen accountability and opportunities for continuous improvement of the systems of care through measurement, evaluation and public reporting. 

To the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services: 

Use of birth alerts in Manitoba to apprehend babies where approximately 90% of child welfare apprehensions are Indigenous

June 15, 2020 CTV News – The Province of Manitoba has announced it will end the controversial practice of birth alerts on June 30, 2020 and will instead refer vulnerable mothers and their children to social services and programs. Under the new system, Stefanson said Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) agencies will now be able to refer more women to programs, which will allow for the shift away from the birth alerts. The province announced it is investing $400,000 to double the capacity of the Mount Carmel Clinic’s Mothering Project (Manito Ikwe Kagiikwe) which helps connect vulnerable mothers with services and programs to support health and wellness for themselves and their children.

Mar. 28, 2020 – Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stephanson announced that there will be a delay in ending the controversial Birth Alert practice due to COVID-19. On Jan. 31, 2020, the government had announced that child welfare and public health systems in Manitoba will no longer issue birth alerts for high-risk expectant mothers as of April 1, 2020. In Manitoba, 282 infants under four days old were taken into care in 2017-2018. Roughly 90 per cent of children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels stated: ”Today, I stand with our southern First Nation CFS service providers as we turn the page and begin to implement a culturally-appropriate alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice, beginning on April 1, 2020.” In September of 2019, the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit issued a Directive to the Southern First Nations Network of Care (SFNNC) to develop a culturally-appropriate and safe alternative to Manitoba’s Birth Alert practice.

Feb. 4, 2020 – Saskatchewan still issues birth alerts but the practice is under review. (CBC)

Court/ Legislative Challenges
Manitoba Governments clawback of the federal Child Special Allowance (CSA) from First Nations

April 14, 2020 – Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are seriously concerned about Manitoba fast tracking Bill 2, “The Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act“. If passed, the Bill will have serious implications on First Nations children in care. On March 19, 2020 the Manitoba government introduced Bill 34. The Bill is currently seeking to legalize Manitoba’s actions of recovering the Child Special Allowance since January 1, 2005, when they started taking the child tax credit away. In 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the off -reserve children who had their CSA’s clawed back. A trial date is set for this September. But if Bill 2 passes by September the Manitoba government would not be held responsible for their actions and the lawsuit would be invalid.

“From 2005 to 2019, approximately $338 million dollars of the Child Special Allowance (CSA) funds meant for First Nations children in care were stolen by the provincial government. This is an illegal action. We have a government trying to justify their actions, wiping their hands clean from the claw backs of the CSA by protecting themselves from any legal recourse through Bill 2,” stated Chief Karen Batson of Pine Creek First Nation. ”This is a human rights violation and is another example of how the provincial government has neglected children in care in the past, present, and now future,” concluded Chief Batson.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO), the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) are particularly concerned by section 8, “which sets out to legally end the ability of current and former children in care to sue the Manitoba government for clawing back their monthly Children’s Special Allowance (CSA).

Oct. 7, 2020 – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Official Opposition Manitoba NDP and the Manitoba Liberal Party, denounce and reject Bill 2 and stand in opposition against the Provincial government’s approach to denying First Nations families and children access to justice. Section 84 of the Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act will retroactively legalize Manitoba’s actions since January 1, 2005, as well as take away the right to any reparations for the children and families affected by the practice of clawing back the Children’s Special Allowance.

A class action lawsuit in the amount of $338 million dollars was filed against the Provincial government on behalf of First Nation children in care who are victims of the government’s actions of capturing the Children’s Special Allowance. If Bill 2 passes, the class action lawsuit will be void and First Nation families and children will not receive compensation for the injustice they went through.

Nov. 6, 2020 – Bill 2, the “Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act“, is passed.

Nov. 9, 2020 – The Southern Chiefs Organization and the Manitoba Métis Federation along with a group of 19 Indigenous child and family Agencies and Authorities announced their intent to file a claim

Dec. 15, 2020 – They filed a constitutional legal challenge against Manitoba’s Bill 2. Bill 2 is Manitoba’s attempt to legalize the theft of CSA money from Indigenous children, the most vulnerable group in Manitoba. It is also Manitoba’s attempt to escape legal accountability for the theft.  This is wrong,” said Harold Cochrane, legal counsel, Cochrane Saxberg LLP.

Sept. 8, 2021 – the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs filed its written submissions in its challenge of the provincial Budget Implementation and Tax Statutes Amendment Act. The submissions of the AMC argue that through the BITSA, Manitoba:

infringes the core jurisdiction of the superior courts and breaches section 96 of the Constitution Act, 1867 by having the province of Manitoba absolving itself from any liability and denying First Nations children in care the right to access the courts;

  • denies First Nations children substantive equality and equal benefit of the law on the grounds of age, race, aboriginality-residence and family status, in which the BITSA is contrary to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • denies First Nations the rights, benefits and opportunities promised to First Nations children in care by Canada pursuant to s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 and is therefore beyond the province’s constitutional authority; and

violates the honour of the Crown and breaches its fiduciary duty owed to First Nations children in care

Federal Government for asking for a Judicial Review of Canadian Human Rights Commission Tribunal damages award

Oct. 6 2019 – The federal government has asked for a judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) decision to award $2B in damages to approximately 53,000 Indigenous children and youth wrongly removed or denied essential services. The CHRT panel found that the government racially discriminated against First Nations children in care in a willful and reckless manner. As a result, the CHRT ordered Canada to pay the maximum amount allowable under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The government could have addressed the broken system and the funding inequalities before, but they didn’t. To appeal this CHRT ruling, which was meant to provide a measure of justice for First Nations children in care, is hurtful and unjust.” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The CHRT has issued eight compliance orders against Canada since its original ruling in January 2016. The CHRT has extended the date for the parties to determine how to deliver payments to Feb. 21, 2020.

Sept. 6, 2019 – Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Citation: 2019 CHRT39, File No.: T1340/7008  We believe that the Creator has entrusted us with the sacred responsibility to raise our families…for we realize healthy families are the foundation of strong and healthy communities. The future of our communities lies with our children, who need to be nurtured within their families and communities. (see 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), Gathering strength, vol. 3, p. 10 part of the Tribunal’s evidence record). Children hold a special place in Aboriginal cultures (…) They must be protected from harm (…). They bring a purity of vision to the world that can teach their elders. They carry within them the gifts that manifest themselves as they become teachers, mothers, hunters, councillors, artisans and visionaries. They renew the strength of the family, clan and village and make the elders young again with their joyful presence. Failure to care for these gifts bestowed on the family, and to protect children from the betrayal of others, is perhaps the greatest shame that can befall an Aboriginal family. It is a shame that countless Aboriginal families have experienced, some of them repeatedly over generations. (see RCAP, Gathering strength vol. 3. p. 21

Government of Manitoba for refusing to meet indigenous Leadership Council to review Child Welfare Block Funding changes

Feb. 22, 2019 – The government of Manitoba met with the Indigenous Leadership Council (Manitoba Metis Federation, Southern Chiefs’ Organization and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak) for first time in over two years despite a previous commitment to meet every quarter. The heads of the Indigenous Leadership Council met again with Minister of Families Heather Stefanson on Apr. 3, 2019 over concerns with the province’s block funding for child welfare that is still based on the old funding formula that rewards removing children from homes. There is no room in this block funding for prevention, no support to keep our families together. Right now, the proposed changes amount to $41.66 a month or a $1.39 per day for each child. Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand

By relying on the federal Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) program to offset maintenance costs, the province is forcing our children to pay for their own care.” Under the federal government, the Children’s Special Allowance program is administered on a per-child basis and is equivalent to the combined maximum of the Canada Child Benefit (CBA) and Child Disability Benefit (CDB). These payments are meant for children in care. However, Manitoba is reducing child maintenance against the CSA funding. The Indigenous Leadership Council stands united in the fight for our children and families.”

Call to Action Status Updates

For an updated summary of the TRC Calls to Action, including all Child Welfare Calls to Action, click here (PDF 205 KB).