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Ottawa will transfer child welfare services to indigenous governments

Indigenous Support Minister Jane Philpott said Friday that the federal government plans to hand over control of children's welfare services to indigenous governments in order to reduce the number of indigenous children in a foster family.

Philpott, who stands next to the Peoples, Inuit, and Metis national leaders, said that forthcoming federal legislation, jointly developed with indigenous leaders, would delegate to the nations, Inuit and Métis nations to take care of their own children in need of education.

This is a departure from how the current system works, which leaves most of the indigenous children in provincial children's welfare systems, which, according to critics, do not take into account their unique needs.

Although only 7.7 percent of all children under the age of 14 are indigenous, they account for 52.2 percent of all children in a foster home — amazing numbers that require some kind of response, Philpott said.

Many fear the current system, which regularly seizes children from their families and communities and places them with adoptive parents — repeats the mistakes made by the school system in India and through the Forty-Sixties, alienating children from their traditional language, culture and support networks.

“For a century, based on the government’s discriminatory policies, we have taken children from our families. It began with boarding schools, it continued in the forty-sixties and, to this day, children are taken from their families, ”said Philpott on Friday.

“This legislation is a turning point in order to say no more.”

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott says that the upcoming federal legislation "legislation is a turning point." 0:41

The “60th scoop” refers to the practice in Canada for decades after the end of the 1950s without indistinguishing indigenous children from their homes and placing them in a foster family or for adoption.

Perry Belgaard, the Assembly of National Chiefs of the First Nations, said that the child welfare system should instead focus on preventing family problems first.

“The first nations are ready to reform children's and family services in such a way as to respect our rights, cultures and family structures. The first nations for many years were kept by outdated laws, and we continue to experience injuries and losses when children and families are broken, ”said Bellegard.

Alvin Fiddler – the great leader Nishnawa Askey Nation, a compilation "The First Nation in Northern Ontario." He also welcomed the promise of new legislation as a way to eliminate the "uncertainty" around the current problematic system of child welfare.

“Federal legislation on the children's well-being of indigenous peoples has the potential to enshrine our right to care for our children in a way that is consistent with our cultural traditions and values ​​… (and) provides the basis for accountability, while respecting our inalienable right, ”he said.

Philpott said that Ottawa is already working to reduce financial incentives for child detention agencies, moving it away from the funding model that was tied to the number of children in care.

Philpott earlier promised to put an end to what she called the “perverted” system that turns indigenous children into “goods”.

Those who insist on reform want to see more money directed at programs for adolescents, rehabilitation family services, substance abuse treatment, warnings about fetal alcohol syndrome and other educational campaigns, and also make fear of last resort.

Caring for relatives – placing children with family members, such as grandmothers, is another model that indigenous communities want to explore.

The specifics of how Ottawa will facilitate such a jurisdictional transfer was not explained on Friday. Legislation will be introduced in the House of Commons in early 2019, Philpott said. Indigenous leaders expressed hope that the bill would be passed before the federal elections next fall.

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