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For immediate release
May 19, 2022
Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg, MB – Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Inc. is issuing this statement in response to news that Court of Queen’s Bench Judge James Edmond has found that the Manitoba government misappropriated federal benefits meant for children in care.
“Since devolution in Child and Family Services (CFS), the Government of Manitoba has been taking our children monies through the Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) to cover basic necessities which they are responsible for under CFS. Yesterday, the Court of Queen’s Bench, Judge James Edmond agreed with us with his ruling. I want to emphasize, NO MORE stealing from our poorest, our vulnerable First Nations children in the Manitoba CFS system. We should commend our MKO leadership as they have been strong in voicing ‘enough is enough’ and passed resolutions 2018-03-03 and 2019-11-09 indicating the monies go directly to children and the families, where it rightly deserves to be. Ekosi to the legal firm for taking this case on behalf of the children. Ekosi to the strong advocates out there and our MKO staff for their strong lobbying to get this addressed at many countless meetings with the two-tier governments. I also commend Judge James Edmond for providing clarity this week that these actions were unconstitutional and discriminated against foster children in Manitoba,” shared Grand Chief Garrison Settee.
“This week’s ruling in favour of First Nations children is a positive step forward,” shared Chief David Monias of Pimicikamak Cree Nation. “Our children are the future. We want the Children’s Special Allowance to be returned to our children. These funds were always meant for our children, not for provincial revenue. Having access to these funds can improve the lives of countless children. As First Nations leaders, we will continue to advocate strongly for the rights of our children and grandchildren. It is not the children’s responsibility to subsidize the provincial CFS system. We as Chiefs have a collective responsibility for the care and protection of all our children, legally, morally and financially.”
“I’m pleased to hear the news yesterday, Ekosi Judge James Edmond confirmed what Indigenous people have known for years—the Government of Manitoba misappropriated funds that were meant for our children. This ruling is significant as it sets a precedent and will assist us in negotiating our funding agreements as we continue to move towards restoring our inherent jurisdiction over our children,” stated Chief Betsy Kennedy of the War Lake First Nation.
This years-long issue is connected to the provision of the Children’s Special Allowance by the federal government. It is meant to ensure children in care get the same federal funding that other children get through the Canada Child Benefit and Child Disability Benefit.
From 2006 to 2019, the Manitoba government required child and family services agencies to give the money from the benefit to the government. The government said the funds belonged to them since the government was paying the cost of looking after the children.
Lawyers estimate the province has to date illegally taken over $334 million, including $251 million from Indigenous child and family services agencies, that was meant for children in care.
For more information:
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak
Email: [email protected]