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ONTARIO REGIONAL CHIEF ISADORE DAY CALLS ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD AND REPAIR THE DAMAGE DONE BY DECADES OF INADEQUATE FUNDING AND DISREGARD FOR FIRST NATION CHILD WELFARE

TORONTO, ON (Nov 1, 2016) --- Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says now that parliament has unanimously passed the motion on First Nation child welfare all jurisdictions must come together now to immediately repair the damage done to the most vulnerable members of Canadian society – Indigenous children and their families.

“We have never given up jurisdiction on child welfare. Federal underfunding and misguided provincial child welfare systems do not work: they continue to fail our children and families,” said Regional Chief Day. “Renewal in child welfare is our highest priority. We will continue to call for meaningful recognition and resources to allow First Nations to exercise our own jurisdiction in caring for our children and families in need.”

Concerns about inadequate funding in First Nations child welfare have been raised and studied for decades. In 2007, a complaint of discrimination was filed at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, later referred to the Tribunal. The complaint was filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. Chiefs of Ontario joined the complaint as an interested party.

This past May, First Nation leadership met with provincial Cabinet Ministers to discuss implementation of the Ontario Indigenous Children and Youth Strategy, with the goal of full jurisdiction of child welfare by First Nations. In addition to discussing the need for an ongoing process towards jurisdiction, the issue of child and youth mental health, and the unacceptably high rate of suicides among youth was discussed. The importance of moving forward on full implementation of Jordan's principle and the need to review the 1965 Child Welfare Agreement was also emphasized. 

“The Chiefs of Ontario’s Social Unit met with the Political Confederacy and the Chiefs Committee on Social Services this summer regarding inherent jurisdiction with regards to Child Welfare. We ensured that First Nations jurisdiction on child welfare is paramount in system change and this new fiscal relationships will ensure full, equitable support for First Nations child welfare services,” said Regional Chief Day.

The motion calls on the government to comply with a ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal requiring increased funding levels for child welfare services delivered on reserve. It calls for an immediate cash injection of $155 million, as well as a funding plan for future years.

In January 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal confirmed that the federal government is indeed discriminating against First Nations children through its inadequate funding and other policies in First Nations child welfare. The Tribunal found that federal funding models focused on apprehension, not prevention. They created incentives to remove children from families into care – contributing to the breakup of First Nations families and the vast over-representation of First Nations children in the child welfare system.

“Now that today’s motion has been passed, there must be a renewed effort by both the federal and provincial governments to jointly work together with our leaders and technicians to finally make substantial progress towards the health and well-being of our children,” said Association of Iroquois and Allied Indian (AIAI) Deputy Grand Chief Denise Stonefish, COO Social Services Portfolio Holder. “Now is the time to Rebuild, Repair and Reconcile our Relationship in order to secure our rightful place in Canada.”

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The Chiefs of Ontario is an advocacy forum, and a secretariat for collective decision making, action, and advocacy for the 133 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the province of Ontario, Canada. For more info, please contact: Jamie Monastyrski, Communications: 807-630-7087 jamie.monastyrski@coo.org