Sask. First Nation transferred control over children in care under federal law
A Saskatchewan First Nation has been legally transferred jurisdiction and control over its children in care. This marks the first time that control of child and family services has been restored to an Indigenous community under federal law.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and the Chief of Cowessess First Nation Cadmus Delorme, were present at a signing ceremony in the community on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to Cowessess First Nation community members on July 6, 2021. (Gareth Dillistone/CTV News)
The Miyo Pimatisowin Act, which was ratified by Cowessess residents in March 2020, asserts the community’s right to care for children and families in need. The Act is a stepping-stone in the community’s effort to create its own plan for self-governance. It is the first of its kind in Canada.
The Miyo Pimatisowin Act, which means “striving for a better life” in Cree, was made possible by Bill C-92, the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.
“The end goal is one day there will be no children in care. Thirty-nine years old I hope that happens in my lifetime, but Cowessess, we have a lot of work to do,” Chief Delorme said.
The Act was co-developed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous partners, and on Tuesday the first ever coordination agreement under the Act was signed.
"The Act provides a pathway for Indigenous communities to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services, and establishes national minimum standards to ensure the best interests of Indigenous children, cultural continuity, and substantive equality," according to a press release from the prime ministers office.
Under the Act, which has been in force since Jan. 2020, a request must be made to enter into a coordination agreement in order for an Indigenous law on child and family services to prevail over any conflicting federal, provincial or regional laws.
“We'll ensure that as we move forward kids get the support they need, and the protection they need, driven by their own communities, in their own languages in their cultures so that no kids will be removed from the communities that they're a part of,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
According to the prime minister’s office, 38 Indigenous governments, representing more than 100 communities, are seeking to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services under the Act. Eighteen coordination agreement discussions are underway.
Trudeau announced his government would provide $38.7 million over the next two years to Cowessess, for the implementation of the new child and family program.
Cowessess First Nation, located 164 kilometres east of Regina, announced on June 24 that it had found an estimated 751 unmarked burial sites on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
THE MIYO PIMATISOWIN ACT
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 approach focuses on prevention, ensuring families have the resources to decolonize their homes and manage the impact inter-generational trauma.
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. Delorme said with this act every child in care from Cowessess stays connected to their community, language and cultural identity.
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 in urban areas, such as Regina.