Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller speaks at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. The federal government is committing $2.5 million dollars over the next two years to support the delivery of mental wellness services and prevention programs for Indigenous youth across Saskatchewan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister says change won’t come ‘overnight’ as new child-welfare law takes effect

The new law, passed as Bill C-92 last June

Some Indigenous communities could soon take over authority for their child-welfare systems under a federal law that took effect this week. But it could be years before others are prepared to take on the responsibility under what federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller calls a “complex” piece of legislation.

“This is a process that will be continual throughout the next few years, and the system which is broken will continue to be so for some time,” Miller told The Canadian Press Thursday.

“Each community has different capacities and preparedness,” the minister added.

“Some of the most vulnerable will just simply not be, because of issues of capacity, in a position to exercise the whole suite of options that would be available under the law.”

The new law, passed as Bill C-92 last June, affirms the rights of those communities to enforce their own rules around child and family services. It also shifts the focus of those services to preventing the removal of children from their families and communities.

The goal is to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous children currently under care and in generations to come.

Indigenous children account for more than half of all kids in foster care even though fewer than 10 per cent of all Canadian children are Indigenous, a statistic Miller calls “shocking.”

“Change will not come overnight,” Miller said.

“The only way to achieve this is to continue to work with our partners through this transition period to make sure the law works for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, and most importantly, for their children.”

A number of Indigenous communities have already expressed keen interest in taking over those responsibilities.

Until Indigenous communities pass their own child-services laws, Miller said services currently provided to Indigenous children will continue as before.

However, under Bill C-92, which took effect Wednesday, Indigenous service providers will immediately have to apply basic principles set out in the act when a child comes into care, including consideration of the child’s physical and emotional well-being, the importance of the child’s relationship with his or her family and community and maintaining a connection to their culture.

ALSO WATCH: Journalists launch ‘Spotlight: Child Welfare’ series into B.C.’s foster system

Some Indigenous communities have expressed concerns that no stable funding to help them take over child-welfare services has been provided under the legislation.

The Assembly of First Nations has estimated the total cost of transitioning from federal and provincial care to community-based systems could reach $3.5 billion.

Some of that money could be scattered over several departments in the upcoming spring federal budget for things like social housing, family assistance programs and health care, Miller predicted.

But just how much of the spending will be earmarked this year will depend on the outcome of talks among various federal ministers, their provincial and territorial counterparts and Indigenous community leaders, he said.

The Quebec government is challenging the legislation, arguing that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction.

But the federal government will implement the law, regardless of any constitutional challenge, Miller said.

“We’ll be moving forward in any event.”

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

Shuswap First Nations landmark project gets $10,000 boost

The funds received from the Heritage Legacy Fund will assist research and design of the project.

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

Video: Enraged man terrifies staff and customers at Blind Bay restaurant

Video on Facebook shows the man hurling profanity at workers during the dinner rush on Aug. 7.

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Tech mogul growing North Okanagan’s wine industry

The founder of online dating site Plenty of Fish is developing 900 acres in Vernon

Fentanyl-laced powder being sold as cocaine in Kamloops

Interior Health has released a warning about very strong fentanyl in Kamloops

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

Founded in 1867, a fundraiser has been launched for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter reunited with owner

Nicola Sanders says her son’s puppy was ‘overjoyed’ to see her owner again

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Most Read