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

Meet the 2020 Words on the Water authors

Eight authors for spring literary festival all have different backgrounds

Words on the Water returns for 19th year

March event expected to sell out, says organizer

Campbell River City Council postpones decision on Campbellton ‘entertainment venue’

Current liquor license doesn’t mesh with business plan, council says, wants ‘assurances’ for neighbours

Alcohol believed to be a factor in fiery crash in Campbell River

No one seriously injured, charges are being sought for impaired driving.

SD72 facing a shortfall of more than $1-million

Board will likely be asked to approve a draw on surplus to have balanced budget

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Off-duty Nanaimo Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Was there a tornado on Vancouver Island Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Most Read