Cowessess First Nation new child welfare legislation will keep children in care connected to community

Cowessess First Nation children in care have a better chance of staying connected to their community after Cowessess introduced its own child welfare legislation.

In March 2020, the citizen’s of Cowessess voted to pass the Miyo Pimatisowin Act, which allows Cowessess First Nation to self-govern and make decisions in the best interest of their children and families. This program is one of the first in the country.

"What's so great about it is now we don't have to try and prove it, now we assert and that's what Cowessess is doing," said Chief Cadmus Delorme.

After years of planning and discussion, the newly installed act reverts the responsibility from the province back to the rights holder, Cowessess First Nation.

The plan is to reset the way child welfare is approached from the core, identifying and assessing each case from psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual perspectives to make sure those areas are fulfilled for their children.

"If the children are in foster care and that is the best place for that child we will work with that foster family in making sure that child knows where home is, who Cowessess is and how proud is it to be a Cowessess citizen," explained Delorme.

 

Delorme said with this act every child in care from Cowessess stays connected to the reserve.

The program is currently run from an existing office, but plans are in the works for a new home at the Chief Red Bear Children's Lodge.

As growth happens over the years more buildings and staff will be available and urban areas, such as Regina, will see full services as well.

"It's the right way to do, for that step towards self-governance. We worked with, we developed arrangements with the both federal and provincial government's just so there's a smooth transition with the files," said Jonathan Z. Lerat, chairperson Chief Red Bear Children’s Lodge and a councillor.

The files of children in care are currently being transferred.

According to Delorme, the approach focuses on prevention, ensuring families have the resources to decolonize and stop inter-generational trauma.

He added the act also changes the way they approach tribunals.

"These are not going to no provincial court, we have our own tribunal based on healing, based on minimizing the trauma and utilizing our own values that we have used for hundreds of years."