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

Local masters soccer derby resumes this weekend

Cowichan 49ers face Cowichan Steelheads — who ya got?

Preliminary inquiry dates set in Duncan court for Coogan murder case

Lawyers for the man accused of killing his brother inside the apartment… Continue reading

One year later: Theo the giant pig settling into Sahtlam sanctuary

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Editorial: Have your say on changes to assisted dying law

In June of 2016 Canadians gained the right to physician assisted death — but there were caveats.

Alzheimer’s Awareness campaign challenges stigma

In January, residents of the Cowichan Valley are invited to take part in Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Anti-pipeline protests in support of Wet’suwet’en continue at B.C. government buildings

‘We are unarmed, they have guns,’ protesters chanted on Wednesday morning

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Advocates call hospital parking fees a ‘shakedown’ after learning most Island tickets are waived

Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals among the most ticketed on the Island

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

B.C.’s first ride-hailing app to launch in Tofino, Whistler in February

The Whistle! app will be available in Tofino on Feb.1 and in Whistler Feb. 6.

Councillor resigns in Revelstoke after colleagues approved 67% raise

Council approved a 134 per cent raise for the mayor of Revelstoke

Rolled-over dairy truck in Abbotsford lost 40,000 litres of milk

Truck removed Sunday, Jan. 19, with specialized equipment to upright vehicle

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Most Read