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

A crowd gathers at Mount Newton Cross Road and Highway 17 on Oct. 23. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Highway reopens after rally supporting Mi’kmaq fishing rights in Nova Scotia

Central Saanich demonstration interrupts Friday afternoon traffic

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is looking for this man, who they say stole a charity box. (Facebook/Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Crime Stoppers looking for man who stole charity box from Saanich grocery store

Anyone with information asked to call Crime Stoppers

Sooke man Rik Downer spent two weeks in the Royal Jubilee Hospital after contracting flesh-eating bacteria. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Sooke man’s bumped knee leads to fight for life

Man unknowingly contracts case of rare flesh-eating disease

Victoria police Chief Const. Del Manak appreciates the efforts of residents and business owners who took part in the VicPD community survey. The questionnaire saw a combined nearly 1,000 respondents from Victoria and Esquimalt. (Black Press Media file photo)
VicPD survey says: overall satisfaction positive, accountability needs work

Respondents feel safe during day, not so much at night; more police presence would help

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read