Chief Cadmus Delorme, of Cowessess First Nation, speaks during a rally following the Gerald Stanley trial, in Regina, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Cowessess First Nation, about 170 kilometres east of Regina, is one of at least eight aboriginal groups in Western Canada and Ontario that have notified Indigenous Services Canada that they intend to handle their own child and family services as allowed under new federal legislation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

‘We want this to happen:’ First Nation moves on own child welfare law

Cowessess has 159 children in care and 350 receiving services for protection

A Saskatchewan chief says his First Nation is not waiting on Ottawa to announce funding before the band works toward taking over its own child welfare.

Cowessess First Nation, about 170 kilometres east of Regina, is one of at least eight aboriginal groups in Western Canada and Ontario that have notified Indigenous Services Canada that they intend to handle their own child and family services as allowed under new federal legislation.

Chief Cadmus Delorme says Cowessess has already drafted its own child services law — one of the first steps required before a First Nation can take over.

The Cowessess law establishes an agency and outlines principles for programs including prevention, apprehension and intervention. It could be ratified in March, said Delorme.

“We’re very serious about this. We want this to happen. We need this to happen,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Is the government fiduciarily obligated to help us? Probably they are. Are we going to wait for that cheque to hit our account? Our children matter so much to us that we’re just going to figure this out.”

Federal legislation came into effect last month. It affirms the rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities to handle their own child welfare in the hope of reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Social Services said more than 85 per cent of the 3,400 children in its care at the end of 2019 were Indigenous.

Delorme estimates Cowessess has 159 children in care and 350 receiving services for protection. Most of them are in Alberta, he said.

The First Nation is also working on co-ordination agreements with the federal government and provinces where Cowessess children are in care: Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

“Cowessess never gave jurisdiction to the provinces for our children in care,” Delorme said.

VIDEO: More First Nations kids deserve child-welfare compensation, federal lawyers argue

William Olscamp, a spokesman with Indigenous Services Canada, said Cowessess is an early adopter of the new legislation and is well advanced in developing its own child and family services law.

Delorme said he’s optimistic they will be ready by April. He expects the community will have spent about $250,000 in development costs, which include legal bills and trips to Ottawa.

He said there’s also a budget for the first year of implementation, but he wouldn’t provide a figure. He said that’s being discussed with the federal government.

Delorme doesn’t believe Cowessess can bring in its own child-welfare services without federal money.

“Realistically we can’t. We would have to take away (money) from something else.”

Some provinces and Indigenous leaders have expressed concern about a lack of clarity on funding for and how to bring in their own child-welfare models.

The Assembly of First Nations has said it could cost up to $3.5 billion for First Nations across the country.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 Saskatchewan First Nations, recently announced it wants $360 million from Ottawa over five years to implement the legislation on reserves.

“We will continue to work with First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to enact the systemic change that is necessary in order to reform this broken system,” Vanessa Adams, press secretary for Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, said in an email.

Calculating specific costs also depends on the needs of the children, Delorme said. Some may require care for physical, mental and emotional needs that could cost tens of thousands of dollars each year, he said. That may not be so for others.

“Some children in care, they just require as minimal as a culture plan.

“They’re in a really good foster home and we want those children to stay where they are. We just want to make sure that they’re safe, (that) they have a good development plan … a good culture plan (and) they know where home is.”

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, said his group also intends to use the legislation. He believes the provinces shouldn’t offload all costs to the federal government.

He urged caution when it comes to funding requests from Indigenous groups.

“We’re all working towards the same outcome and hopefully Canada’s going to support us,” he said.

“But if we start asking way beyond Canada’s means, Canada’s going to try to avoid or temporarily delay this and that’s what worries me.”

— By Stephanie Taylor in Regina

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

Stop checks, searches of Wet’suwet’en pipeline opposers unlawful: Watchdog

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs file complaint

Wet’suwet’en pipeline supporters speak up

“Protesters get one side of the story and they stand up with their fists in the air.”

Federal minister pledges to meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs in Smithers over natural gas pipeline

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they are visiting Mohawk territory

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Coast Mountain College appoints a new president

The promotion came from within the school

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

PHOTOS: 2020 BC Winter Games kick off in Fort St. John

More than 1,000 of B.C.’s best athletes will be competing over the next three days

Shopping cart collector at B.C. Costco awarded $583,000 after getting pinned by car

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when a driver backed into him in the parking lot

‘Usain Bolt he was not’: B.C. gang police seize drugs, cash after foot chase

‘The man took off running when he saw our officers approaching,’ CFSEU BC says

Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Trudeau promises update on blockades as Wet’suwet’en chiefs meet Mohawk supporters

B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to Coastal GasLink

Most Read