Liberal Party, of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau, speaks to supporters as Marc Miller, MP of Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest-Ile-des-Soeurs, looks on during an armchair discussion at an open Liberal Party fundraising event in Montreal, Quebec, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press via AP)

Manitoba slams lack of detail on feds’ Indigenous child-welfare overhaul plan

The federal government has said the legislation will reduce the number of Indigenous children in care

Canada is only six weeks away from one of the largest-ever reforms to the Indigenous child-welfare system and Ottawa has not shared information about how it will be implemented or funded, Manitoba’s families minister says.

“This is not the way to bring about reforms in such an important area as this that will have an impact on the most vulnerable people in our society — which is our children,” Heather Stefanson said. “This is unacceptable.”

Stefanson said she shared her concerns with former Indigenous Services minister Seamus O’Regan last month about the rollout of C-92, which is to include a massive overhaul of Indigenous child-welfare across the country.

She said she never received a response.

Stefanson said she has sent another letter to newly appointed Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller this week reasserting the province’s concerns.

The federal government has said the legislation will reduce the number of Indigenous children in care by affirming the inherent rights of First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities.

Indigenous groups — which is not defined in the legislation — are to give notice of their intent to exercise jurisdiction or request a tripartite co-ordination agreement with the federal and provincial government. They would develop or implement existing laws related to child welfare and those would prevail over federal and provincial laws.

There is no funding attached to the legislation.

WATCH: Journalists launch ‘Spotlight: Child Welfare’ series into B.C.’s foster system

Rola Tfaili, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada, said the department can’t provide specific information until the new year. Tfaili said the implementation will be co-developed with Indigenous partners and stakeholders.

Stefanson said she supports the overall objective of the legislation but said there’s no clear plans for how it will be implemented or funded.

In Manitoba, the stakes are high, she added. There are about 10,000 children in care in the province and about 90 per cent are Indigenous.

“We want to ensure these kids don’t fall through the cracks as a result of these changes that are being imposed by the federal government,” she said.

There are more than 60 First Nations in Manitoba. While many people live on reserves, a significant number live in urban centres.

There is also a large Metis population. Stefanson said the legislation needs to address situations where kids have connections to multiple communities.

She is concerned how it will affect data-sharing between agencies, such as the child-abuse registry, and ensure equity in care and work within the provincial court system.

Manitoba is currently doing its own child-welfare overhaul, and it will likely affect those plans, she said.

“This is arguably the biggest reform of child welfare in the history of our country and there’s been no dialogue.”

Stefanson said there are also questions about how it will affect the jurisdiction of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.

Advocate Daphne Penrose said there must be a clear plan on how to move from the current system to the new laws. She has not received any communication from the federal government.

“This is a system where children’s lives depend on this system protecting them in a number of areas, and supporting families to stay together,” she said, adding that people need to work together to make it a success.

“The federal government needs to provide communication and resources and funding and transitional frameworks in order for this to be done in a meaningful and good way for kids. Those commitments need to be in place.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone, 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

Prince Harry reunites with Meghan and Archie in Victoria

Buckingham Palace said Tuesday it would not comment on private matters

Thief steals donation box, tip jar from Oak Bay businesses

Oak Bay Police Department looking for suspect

George Jay parents tired of dog poop left on school’s fields

Parents advocate for stronger fines, more signage in the neighbourhood

Dog dies, Victoria man arrested after incident in Oaklands

Police called to ‘incident between a man and a dog’ Monday afternoon

VIDEO: Greater Victoria mom shares ‘insane’ experience of viral dinosaur video

Tabitha Cooper filmed her costumed sons meeting their grandma at the Victoria International Airport

VIDEO: 17 Husky pups rescued from Interior B.C. property find new homes

The BC SPCA caught the moment on video the last puppy, Uki, met his owners

U.S. officials confirm first case of Wuhan coronavirus near Seattle

The U.S. is the fifth country to report seeing the illness

Police recover body of Tofino man near Hot Springs Cove

An RCMP dive team has recovered the body of a Tofino man in his 50s.

Skier dies at Fernie Alpine Resort

It’s the second person to die in a tree well at a ski resort in B.C. in the past week.

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Vancouver Island home to one of Canada’s largest private skateboard collections

Eric Pinto owns hundreds of boards, spanning multiple decades

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

Surrey’s ‘Pink Palace’ being used for Stephen King horror shoot

New web series based on King’s The Stand novel

Most Read