Child and Family Services

Child and Family Services Liaison Unit

First Nations possess the right to be self-governing and to create laws based on their own needs and aspirations. Today, First Nations maintain and adhere to the customary laws relating to their families and communities.  In every society there are fundamental beliefs and principles that remain sacred that are passed down from generation to generation.

The objective of MKO First Nations continues to be achieving autonomy over all matters relating to First Nations children and families and to ensure that the customary practices for the care, wellbeing and preservation of children and families are applied. Based on numerous resolutions MKO Chiefs in Assembly assert and affirm that the First Nations of MKO have band customs and customary care practices in the care and upbringing of children and both levels of government must recognize and respect these practices. MKO’s CFS Liaison Unit operates within the MKO Political/Management framework to assist and support MKO leadership and communities on Child and Family Services matters.  Our CFS Liaison Unit also works to provide support, guidance and advocacy to families and communities that are experiencing issues within the current CFS system.

MKO First Nation communities continue to experience major shortfalls and challenges in the area of child and family services which is evident based on the ever increasing number of First Nation children coming into care. Although First Nations make up only a small percentage of Manitoba’s population 90% of First Nation children are over-represented in the provincial child welfare system.

Moving forward MKO will continue to support MKO First Nation communities with their desire to self-determination and concentrate on the First Nation community’s best practices which will involve their own traditions, teachings and customs. This past year the CFS file for MKO has been highly active.

Activities

  1. Legislative Review Committee

December, 2017 Families Minister Scott Fielding announced a formal review of Manitoba’s child welfare legislation at which time a Legislative Review Committee was struck with a composition of community leaders and child welfare experts. Joanne Crate, CFS Liaison Officer represented MKO. The purpose of this committee is to examine the existing legislation and explore opportunities for legislative changes to support the newly announced provincial CFS reform plan. Committee members traveled to Brandon, Dauphin, Thompson, and Winnipeg to hear from community stakeholders. Committee members heard from a number of formal presentations and received numerous written submissions including approximately 1500 online survey questionnaires. In addition, a few informal meetings occurred which included other relevant community groups.  Based on the above information the development of a final report of recommendations will be presented to Minister Fielding for his consideration on the committee’s recommendations to legislative changes.

  1. Regional Advisory Committee (RAC)

This Tripartite table was first established in 2001 as a result of a National Policy Review (NPR) of INAC’s national policy for First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) known as Directive 20-1 Chapter 5. A report entitled, “First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review” was released which included 17 recommendations to INAC’S CFS policy as well as a recommended action plan. One of the guiding principles of the NPR was to change FNCFS program policy to establish a greater degree of parity between FNCFS agencies and provincial/territorial CFS.

  1. CFS Technical Working Group (TWG)

The mandate of the Child Welfare Technical Working Group (“TWG”) is to create a technical working group comprised of representatives from AMC, MKO and SCO in order to establish a collaborative environment to work together on First Nations child welfare issues that are of common interest to AMC, MKO and SCO.

  1. Bill 18, The Child and Family Services Amendment Act (Taking Care of Our Children)

 March, 2018 Minister of Families Scott Fielding introduced Bill 18 to the Manitoba Legislature. This bill would provide Amendments to the CFS Act which will allow First Nation communities and agencies to work together in developing a model of customary care that reflects the unique cultural practices and traditions of the community. This will allow children to remain within their home communities in providing supports for extended family to care for them.

The Provincial commitment is, “Introduce CFS Act amendments that will support customary care as a stepping stone on the path towards greater Indigenous influence over care planning for Indigenous children within the context of child and family services, including child protection.” This will

May 9, 2018, Joanne Crate, MKO Representative provided an oral presentation to the provincial standing committee on Bill 18 with the following specific highlights and recommendations:

  • MKO Chiefs in Assembly support in principle the concept of Customary Care in provincial legislation as explained by Manitoba, and direct Grand Chief to seek resources to have direct input and involvement in all child and family matters that reflect our traditional First Nations family laws.
  • The proposed legislation supports community control over and self-determination in the care of our children which supports the political will to have MKO move forward with both level of governments in achieving First Nations jurisdiction over child and family matters.
  • MKO be acknowledged for its long tenure of advocacy work on child welfare reform which includes years of work on child welfare reform and MKO Family Law.
  • That Manitoba fulfills its obligations to provide equitable services to First Nation children and families involved in the CFS system through adequate funding formulas.
  • That Manitoba commits to working directly with MKO leadership on a government-to-government basis when drafting specific regulations and standards of Bill 18 including the implementation phase.
  1. Northern First Nation Technical Working Group

March 2018 – The Chiefs in Assembly supported the creation of a Northern Technical Working Group as per Resolution 2018-03-01. This MKO technical table on Child and Family Services (CFS) is required to resource and support the Chief’s political table, and should be made up from MKO, First Nation of Northern Manitoba CFS Authority, the First Nation CFS northern agencies, and a representative of Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The working group has had a couple of meetings since its inception where the main focus has been on both the federal/provincial child welfare reform plans and how it will impact MKO children, families and communities. David Monias has been seconded to Northern Authority to build on his prior knowledge on child welfare reform through the Awasis Jurisdiction Project and the Family Justice Initiative. Another focal point will be to support the ongoing development and implementation of MKO First Nations Family Law.

  1. First Nations of Northern Manitoba CFS Authority

Since the reinstatement of Northern Authority’s Board of Directors (July, 2017) MKO’s CFS Liaison has had periodic meetings with the Northern Authority. On May 30, 2018 MKO was invited to attend their strategic planning meeting which included discussion in creating an environment for change. The need to understand each organization’s (agencies included) role and responsibility was apparent as well as devising a communication protocol/plan in preparation of transforming the Northern Authority to a Secretariat among other upcoming child welfare reform changes.

  1. Advocacy

Advocacy for families is a huge gap in the current model of child welfare in Manitoba. This is highly required service within MKO’s CFS unit. This year 15 intakes were received and referred to the proper agencies, authorities of service.

The majority of intakes involved foster home/placement issues. There has been a spike in the number of grandparents (5) asking about the process in regards to an application of guardianship. Reasons in seeking this option usually involve issues with the foster home environment. Most grandparents welcome the concept of customary care where others want full guardianship of their grandchildren to get them completely out of the system.

  1. Conferences/Workshops/Events

A number of community events occurred over the past year where the CFS Liaison Officer was invited to speak or participate:

  • Northern Authority Board Training – Winnipeg, MB May 24 – 26, 2017
  • MKO Annual General Assembly, Norway House, MB July 11 – 12, 2017
  • Participated in the Evacuation of ILFN communities Aug/Sep, 2017
  • Awasis Annual General Meeting – Brokenhead, MB Sep 25, 2017
  • Jordan’s Principle Service Coordinators Conference – Winnipeg, MB Sep 25 – 27, 2017
  • Northern Authority Agency Relations Meeting – Winnipeg, MB October 27, 2017
  • Design Charette of a Family Reunification Centre – Beseaujor, MB November 25, 2017
  • Jordan’s Principle March, Winnipeg, MB Dec 12, 2017

Conclusion

As stated earlier it has been a very busy year for MKO’s CFS unit and can safely project it will only continue to do so in the forthcoming year. Unlike other provinces, Manitoba has its own unique structure of child welfare as per the AJI-CWI initiative. It is important this is kept in mind with any future developments of a child welfare reform model. It is vital we secure additional funding to ensure those ongoing efforts are within the best interest of MKO’s children, families and communities.

The Legislative Review Committee has experienced a general consensus across the province that the current CFS legislation needs to be reformed to foster and enable a system that provides greater support and control to First Nation families and communities. Throughout this process the committee remains cognizant of the fact that the recommended changes to a provincial child welfare system is only an interim measure and that the long-term goal for First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples  is to gain jurisdiction over matters affecting their own children, families and communities.

For the” Report of the Chiefs General Assembly on Child Welfare Reform” comments from the Chiefs and the floor demonstrate the need for additional information to move forward in First Nation child welfare reform.  The results of this report will contribute to the on-going development of a Tri-partite action plan for moving “Our way of Caring for Our People.”  Once a draft report is completed it will be presented to MKO General Assembly for approval.

The common objective of AMC, MKO and SCO is to gain full jurisdiction over all child welfare matters affecting Manitoba’s First Nation communities. This will require the involvement of both levels of government with considerable processes in place to establish tripartite tables to meet short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives. The short-term objective would be to ensure culturally appropriate programs and services are available to meet the needs of off-reserve residents as well as supporting the First Nation CFS authorities; whereas the longer-term objectives would be to continue with the work on the development and implementation of First Nation Law (Jurisdiction), codes, standards and traditional practices. AMC’s plan moving forward appears to take only a partial position when addressing First Nation CFS matters in Manitoba when in fact a two prong process exists both federally and provincially. Currently SCO and MKO are in discussions to work collaboratively for the advancement of child and family reform while respecting each First Nation community’s uniqueness.  The Mandate of a Steering Committee will require support from leadership. A draft Terms of Reference for the Steering Committee is currently being developed.

These projects will involve a massive amount of work which will require an additional policy analyst position with specialized training in legal research, quality assurance and sound financial management. The main task will be to create a full scale strategic work plan to achieve specific deliverables and outputs within targeted timelines.

Moving forward/Recommendations:

  • Ensure previous and current MKO resolutions pertaining to child and family matters are respected and followed through by both levels of government.
  • MKO leadership be actively involved in the future drafting of Manitoba’s legislative changes pertaining to child welfare and seen as an equal partner on a government-to-government foundation.
  • A review of the Regional Advisory Committee is required by the three PTOs in consideration of First Nation child welfare reform planning.
  • It is in the best interest of northern children and families that MKO’s Chiefs Assembly on Child Welfare Reform Report be seen as a guide to future planning of child welfare reform initiatives.
  • It is vital both federal and provincial funding is available to maintain MKO’s Technical working group and establish an additional position to ensure First Nation communities are adequately engaged for the advancement of First Nation child welfare reform, specifically to advance the concept of customary care and having adequate resources to keep families safe and healthy in MKO First Nation communities.
  • MKO Chiefs in Assembly appoint an MKO board representation to the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority.
  • The First Nations of Northern Manitoba CFS Authority Board of Directors provide notice via resolution or motion of its support to transform the Authority to a Secretariat.

Thank you for reading my report. If you require further information or clarification please feel free to contact me at (204) 451-1585.

Regards,

Joanne Crate
CFS Liaison Officer